A video has surfaced that not only shows the moments after a St. Louis police officer crashes his SUV into a gay bar, but also appears to contradict the officer who handcuffs one of the bar co-owners because he was “causing a disturbance.”
The new footage, taken by a bystander, shows the events leading up to Bar:PM co-owner James Pence being handcuffed by officer Ramelle Wallace, who responded to the scene. Chad Morris, the other bar co-owner and Pence’s husband, was arrested later by Wallace, who also is accused of beating Morris while he was in custody.
Update on Bar:PM where a St. Louis police SUV slammed into our clients ‘bar. Then officers handcuffed the owners, beat one up & charged him. Here’s video of initial interaction that shows police had no basis to cuff James & escalated this whole thing (Please RT for visibility) pic.twitter.com/Hiym8XzCBO
— Javad Khazaeli (@javadesq) January 18, 2024
A dash camera was not installed in the vehicle that crashed, and it’s unclear how many, if any, of the officers on scene had working body cameras recording the incident, said Morris’ attorney, Javad Khazaeli
In the 2-minute and 8-second footage, taken shortly after the Dec. 18 crash that happened approximately 12:30 a.m., Wallace asks Pence for his ID, but Pence refuses, saying he’s not suspected of committing a crime.
Pence and Morris live above the bar, and Pence rushed outside when the vehicle crashed into the building.
Wallace says Pence is causing a “disturbance” and raising his voice at him, to which Pence says, “Because you just drove into the front of our building.”
Wallace handcuffs Pence and becomes verbally combative with the bystander filming the encounter. The witness asks Wallace for his badge number and Wallace refuses to comply. Wallace also threatens to arrest the man for “interfering.”
In the X post thread, Khazaeli explains why Wallace’s behavior is problematic.
“Let’s break this down. Off. Ramelle Wallace pulls out cuffs within TWENTY TWO SECONDS of talking to James. And James was breaking no laws. The Supreme Court ruled in Cohen v. California (1971) and Lewis v. New Orleans (1974) that you can yell at cops & even tell them to fuck off (Here’s another Supreme Court case to know regarding the public’s right to yell at law enc forcement . – Q Voice News editor)
“Officer Wallace shows up and immediately goes to rage level 10. His first question is at 0:21. He demands ID, which he is only allowed to do if he has reasonable suspicion that James was breaking the law. There was no suspicion
“Now my two favorite parts of the video . When Wallace grabs his cuffs, Officer Thompson (the guy who crashed the car), immediately puts his head down and walks into the street. You can tell he knows that this is now going to be a big deal
“Fortunately for our client, Officer Wallace is very clear why James was cuffed. Wallace repeatedly says that no one is allowed to yell at him because that is a “Peace Disturbance”
“Yeah. Here’s the actual law. Not even close. James was reacting as you would expect anyone to when a car crashes into his home/business and he’s immediately treated like a criminal.”
This incident is just the tip of the iceberg. The controversial case has received enormous attention, national and international, because it raises concerns about the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department’s conduct and transparency.
- St. Louis police changed the story three times about why the officer crashed his SUV into the building. The officers claimed they swerved to avoid a dog, but later said they avoided hitting a parked car. The department said the driving officer was adjusting a radio in the vehicle.
- However, video shows that the car not only ran a red light, but also traveled at a high rate of speed before swerving and crashing into the building.
- Wallace, the responding officer, did not ask the officer who crashed the police vehicle to take a breathalyzer test, though Khazaeli said enough probable cause existed to warrant it.
- Morris, who was inside the bar at the time of the crash, also was asked by Wallace to show his ID. A short time later, Morris was arrested and charged with felony assault on Wallace and misdemeanor resisting arrest. That felony count was reduced to a misdemeanor. Morris’ next court date is Feb. 2.
- Morris had a black eye and bruises when he was released from jail. He accused Wallace of beating him while in custody
- Wallace has been accused of assaulting and injuring another citizen in a 2019 incident.
- These actions have compounded an already strained relationship between the St. Louis police and the LGBTQ+ community, Khazaeli said.