MARSHALL, Mo. • A Missouri prosecutor has dropped charges against a man who was accused of trying to shoot a police officer to avoid arrest, saying he thinks the two officers who were there lied about what happened and that their supervisor covered it up so that the criminal case could proceed.
Donald Stouffer, the prosecuting attorney in Saline County in central Missouri, said in a news release Monday that he saw no evidence that Carl Roettgen even had a gun when the two Marshall police officers tried to arrest him in May 2015 for a parole violation.
"After hours spent examining the video, trying to reconcile the video with the two officers' statements, and consulting with staff, I reached the difficult conclusion that no reasonable juror could find the officers' accounts credible," he said.
Stouffer said the officers' commander supported their false story so that the outcome of the criminal case would not be affected, raising further concerns about the department's handling of the case. Furthermore, he said he will not file charges in any pending cases in which the officers, Tyler Newell and Josh O'Bryan, had a major role and that he'll review other cases in which either officer was a key witness.
"It is inconceivable that there is an apparent belief among some members of the command staff that the outcome of a criminal case is more important than taking action to prevent Marshall police officers from presenting testimony, under oath, that is 'questionable at best' and suborning perjury at worst," Stouffer said.
Newell and O'Bryan have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, police Sgt. Roger Gibson said Wednesday. He said an undetermined outside law enforcement agency will also be brought in to investigate. Gibson said no supervisor was placed on leave because the prosecutor did not name the commander who allowed the case to proceed.
Stouffer was out of the office Wednesday and didn't immediately respond to a phone message seeking further details about the case. Neither Newell nor O'Bryan has a working listed phone number or could be reached for comment in some other way.
According to the officers, they tried to arrest Roettgen for a parole violation on May 13, 2015, in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Marshall, a city of about 13,000 people roughly 75 miles east of Kansas City. Newell wrote that a passenger jumped out of Roettgen's car as he was trying to drive off, and that he, Newell, got into the car to try to put it in park. He said Roettgen then pointed a gun at his face and that he heard a click. O'Bryan said he was on the driver's side and that he saw a gun.
Roettgen got away but was arrested a week later in Alabama and returned to Missouri. He was due to stand trial later this month but pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and was sentenced Monday to four years in prison.
Stouffer dismissed all of the other charges — three counts of first-degree assault of a law enforcement officer, two counts of armed criminal action and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. If convicted of the assault charges, he could have been sentenced to life in prison.
Roettgen's attorney, John James, said Newell "lost his cool" during the arrest and fired at Roettgen when Roettgen was driving away. He said video shows Newell was never in Roettgen's car.
"Then he compounded that mistake by lying about it and fabricating a story to explain why he discharged his weapon," said James, adding that Roettgen is considering suing.
James said it was also difficult to comprehend how the police supervisors allowed the case to proceed.
"I find it very difficult to believe that the Marshall Police Department did not know that was a fabricated story, or at least strongly suspect it," he said.