It’s entirely possible that a convenience store surveillance video doesn’t tell the complete story of Bryan Boyle’s encounter last week with an off-duty St. Louis police detective — an encounter that ended with the officer apparently attacking Boyle without provocation and Boyle winding up in handcuffs. Both Boyle and the officer are black.
Boyle stated repeatedly in remarks to the Post-Dispatch’s Christine Byers that he was a big admirer of those who serve, especially when the officer is black. He himself aspired to that very calling.
That is, until last week. Now Boyle, 31, isn’t so sure. Unless there’s something more to this story than what the store video revealed, Boyle deserves a personal visit from Police Chief John Hayden and words of encouragement not to let this violent incident destroy his advocacy of police service.
Recruitment already was suffering, and the department is strained by staffing shortages. The trust of the community is, once again, at stake. The officer in question is under investigation for misconduct. If he has a conflicting account of what happened, it hasn’t been made public, nor has his name. Boyle’s version appears to have both video and witness corroboration.
Boyle says he was standing behind the officer in the check-out line, having ordered food and a drink. The officer, a detective dressed in a T-shirt, jeans and a duty belt that included his gun, was waiting to buy some cigarettes. Boyle says he tried to engage the officer in conversation while they waited. The store video has no audio to confirm his account.
He says the officer responded tersely with an expletive. Boyle, undeterred, asked the man if he was a police officer and expressed interest in pursuing such a career. At that point, Boyle’s order was ready, so he reached toward the counter for his food. The video shows the officer shoving and hitting Boyle.
“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,” Boyle said.
“I wanted my sons to look up and see it’s OK to do (police work),” Boyle added. “But imagine if my son was with me? Would it change his mind about the police, too?”
A store clerk who witnessed the attack told Byers he was appalled by the officer’s actions.
Usually, people who experience encounters like this don’t speak of admiration for the police. Boyle seems more like a person who’s had his spirit crushed. That’s perhaps the saddest statement of all about what happened.