All 36 of the rioters arrested over two nights of arson, looting and destruction throughout the city have already been released from jail because prosecutors have not charged any of them.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner failed to charge any of the rioters with a crime within 24 hours of their arrests, leaving jail officials with no choice but to release them, KSDK reported.
“To see that kind of level of violence and rioting that went on, police officers being shot and shot at, a retired police captain being murdered, people throwing rocks and gasoline and frozen water bottles at police officers, firefighters being assaulted and blocked from doing their job, businesses that have served the community for years being burned to the ground,” Schmitt railed on Wednesday, “it’s unfathomable that every single person arrested that night has been released.”
Twenty-five of the 36 people arrested were taken into custody during the same timeframe when four St. Louis Metro police officers were shot, KSDK reported.
Those offenders were facing a variety of felony and misdemeanor offenses, including assault, property damage, burglary, unlawful use of a weapon, trespassing, stealing, and interfering with arrest.
The state attorney general called Gardner’s lack of prosecution “stunning,” and noted that releasing violent offenders back into the community will likely embolden them, KSDK reported.
“There have to be consequences to that and we’re just not seeing that from the local prosecutor,” Schmitt argued.
“The Circuit Attorney’s Office is the only entity that can hold arrestees for longer than 24 hours – they did not do so in these instances, and those arrestees were released,” his spokesperson, Chris Nuelle, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Schmitt told KSDK that he and his office will do everything in their power to prosecute those who have been arrested for committing violent attacks throughout the city.
Just one day before Schmitt’s public admonishment, Garner vowed in a press conference that she would “use the full power of the law” to prosecute violent rioters, KSDK reported.
“I will continue to uphold the rights to peacefully protest, but I want to be clear, I will use the full power of the law and my [office] to prosecute and hold accountable anyone who murders police officers, shoots at police offices or harms anyone in my community,” she said at the time.
But Schmitt said that Gardner’s inaction has spoken much louder than her words.
“People who were throwing rocks at cops were released, people who knocked out the windows to a deputy sheriff’s van were released. It’s an unbelievable situation,” he told KSDK. “And this is on top of the releases from the jail for COVID-19. This stuff adds up.”
Gardner’s spokeswoman, Allison Hawk, said that prosecutors refused to file charges in the “few” cases police sought charges on because Gardner’s office wanted police to conduct better investigations, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“In an effort to hold the offenders accountable, we need essential evidence from the police,” Hawk said. “These matters remain under investigation.”