ST. LOUIS • A St. Louis grand jury has returned misdemeanor charges against a man who drove his car into a group of protesters in August in the city’s Grove district.
The circuit attorney’s office originally charged Mark Colao, 60, with a felony count of resisting arrest by fleeing and two misdemeanor charges of leaving the scene of a crash.
A grand jury that ended its term last week rejected the felony count and instead issued misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest, careless and imprudent driving and leaving the scene of crash.
Circuit Judge Michael Stelzer said he asked prosecutors to bring him the indictment for his signature by Thursday because more than 10 days had lapsed since the grand jury issued it.
One of the prosecutors who presented the case to the grand jury resigned Wednesday over the office’s delay in filing the indictment, sources say.
“Once the grand jury has spoken, (prosecutors) have the duty to sign off on it and move the case forward,” said Colao’s lawyer Joel Schwartz. “The prosecution needs to deal with the facts and not the politics surrounding a charge. These people’s lives are at stake.”
A spokeswoman for Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner said in an email Thursday that “there are no politics. Grand jury deliberations and proceedings and actions are closed by state statute. The indictment speaks for itself.”
Police have said Colao, of the 2900 block of St. Vincent Avenue, drove his car through protesters who were blocking Manchester Avenue and Sarah Street in the Grove neighborhood after a nearby vigil to honor Kenny “Kiwi” Herring, who was fatally shot by St. Louis police officers a day earlier. Police said Herring stabbed a man and attacked an officer with a knife.
After Colao pushed his car through the protesters, he raised his middle finger to a police officer who pulled alongside his car, and “accelerated aggressively” as he left the scene, charges said.
“There’s nothing to support any charges of criminal conduct, much less a misdemeanor,” Schwartz said. “He was simply on his way home, pulled up to a stoplight and got surrounded at this corner. He was scared to death.”
Bail for Colao on the indictment was set at $20,000, with a 10 percent cash surety.
Car drives through protesters in St. Louis
A disturbing sequence of photos shows a car driving through a group of protesters blocking Manchester Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. The car stopped and then accelerated. Only minor injuries were reported. The driver was taken into custody about a block away from the protest. Photos by David Carson