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St. Louis police officer under investigation after allegedly assaulting man at gas station

St. Louis police officer under investigation after allegedly assaulting man at gas station

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ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis police officer is under investigation after he fought with a man at a gas station Thursday morning, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

Bryan Boyle was standing in line behind the officer at the gas station's store on Thursday when he reached past the officer to grab off the store counter the chicken and lemonade Boyle had purchased, according to a video of the incident and an interview with Boyle.

Store surveillance cameras captured the incident and a Post-Dispatch reporter viewed the footage that shows the men at the counter. The officer appears to pay for some cigarettes. He is wearing a T-shirt and jeans, but also a duty belt with his gun. The officer is a detective, according to the source, and was driving his department vehicle at the time.

Boyle, 31, of St. Louis, said Friday that the officer attacked him. 

The Post-Dispatch is not naming the officer because he has not been charged with a crime.

The police department confirmed that the officer remains employed with the department, "however, with all allegations of officer misconduct a complete and thorough investigation will be conducted." The officer's attorney declined to comment.

The alleged assault is just the latest in a string of misconduct cases for the St. Louis department. In recent months, Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner has charged almost a dozen officers with crimes, including assaults and stealing. 

Boyle said it started innocently, with both men standing in line at the store counter.

"I really liked the way he was dressed, so I asked him, 'What are you?'" Boyle said. "He told me, 'I'm a grown (expletive) man.'"

There is no audio with the surveillance footage, but witnesses told police Boyle asked the detective if he was a police officer and said he was interested in becoming an officer, the source said.

But when the clerk pushes Boyle's purchases across the counter, the video shows the officer standing between Boyle and the counter. Boyle then tries to collect the food he bought for his 11-month-old daughter, he said — but the officer shoves Boyle and begins to hit him.

"He tells me I'm in his personal space, but I was like, 'How am I in your personal space when the cashier is serving me?'" Boyle said. "The next thing I know, he shoved me, pulled out his Taser and put it on the counter and starts telling me to put my hands behind my back, and he just starts beating me in my face with his handcuffs.

"I'm like, 'Dude, what is going on?' I was really confused. I was trying to tell him you're an inspiration to me. You are doing something I want to do. And he comes after me again. I look at him like he's a king and he's still trying to put my hands behind my back for no reason."

The video shows Boyle, who is bigger and taller than the officer, trying to block the officer's blows by covering his face with his arms. He does not strike the officer back.

"If I would have fought back, he would have said he was in fear for his life and he could have killed me," Boyle said. "I was just trying to ask him, 'What did I do to you?' But something told me, 'Do not swing back,' because I would have been dead and wouldn't nobody have known what happened."

Boyle, who is black, said the officer was black. That made the situation more emotional for him. "For my own brother to not accept me the way he didn't accept me," Boyle said. "I'm lost."

The video shows several displays of food and candy getting knocked over as the officer hits Boyle, who tries to back away.

The officer uses his radio to call for backup. Police call logs show an "officer-in-need of aid" call was dispatched at 9:33 a.m. to the gas station at 3868 Martin Luther King Drive in the Jeff Vander Lou neighborhood.

As soon as the officer sees others arriving, he tries to arrest Boyle once more. Witnesses told police that the officer repeatedly told the man that he was under arrest, but would not answer when Boyle asked why he was being arrested, according to the source.

Boyle then overpowers him and puts the officer on the ground. The video shows Boyle hold the officer on the ground by putting his knee on his back.

Boyle holds the officer in that position for a few seconds until the other officers walk in the door. Boyle then puts his hands behind his back, and the officers handcuff him.

"When I heard all of the police officers come in, I hurried up and gave them my arms," Boyle said. "I just wanted to know why I was under arrest."

An ambulance took Boyle to a hospital after the attack, so he could be treated for cuts to his face.

"Even with blood pouring down my face, I was telling him, 'I look at you as an inspiration,'" Boyle said. "I don't understand what happened, why he did that to me."

But Boyle said the Thursday incident changed his mind: He no longer wants to go into police work.

"I wanted my sons to look up and see it's OK to do (police work), but imagine if my son was with me? Would it change his mind about the police, too?'" Boyle asked. "I'm figuring out a way to change my everyday living to show them something different."

The incident left the clerks stunned, and the store a mess. But business was buzzing by Thursday night.

One clerk described Boyle as a "regular" at the store, who has always been respectful. The clerks consider him a VIP, he quipped. The clerks said he was appalled at the officer's actions, but would not give his name out of fear of retribution.

"I am all for the police, they have a very dangerous job," he said. "But this man should not be the police."

The store owners would not release the video to the Post-Dispatch because they do not want it to go viral at a time of heightened attention to police brutality issues, according to the store manager, who also did not want to be named. 

The officer has been with the police department since August 2017.

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