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Off-Duty St. Louis Police Officer Shoots, Kills Armed Teen

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 09, 2014 12:09 PM

An off-duty police officer shot and killed an 18-year-old man in St. Louis on Wednesday, prompting many to draw parallels between this shooting and Michael Brown's controversial death.

The killing occurred in St. Louis, the teen was black, and the off-duty officer (who fired 17 shots) was white. But as CNN reports, "the commonalities end there." The teen was reportedly armed with a 9 mm handgun, and after a scuffle with the off-duty officer, he fired three shots before the off-duty officer returned fire and killed him.

What are police saying about this new St. Louis shooting?

Police Chief: Teen Fired First

Since the teen, who was identified as Vonderrit Myers Jr. by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was killed by an off-duty cop acting as a security guard, it may also be easy for some to draw parallels between this case and the shooting of Trayvon Martin. USA Today reports that St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Chief Sam Dotson described the incident as follows:

  • The off-duty officer, wearing his police uniform, drove by three black teens who fled when they saw him;
  • The 32-year-old officer pursued them on foot, and "one of the teens approached the officer 'in an aggressive manner'";
  • A "physical altercation" ensued and "the officer felt that the teen was carry[ing] a firearm";
  • The teen then turned and fired "at least three rounds at the officer" and stopped when his gun jammed; and
  • The officer responded by firing 17 times, killing the teen.

Officers, off-duty or not, are allowed to open fire when they feel they are in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm. In fact, self-defense laws typically allow for even a civilian to respond with deadly force if he or she believes that an attacker is threatening to kill or seriously injure him or her.

Teen Was on House Arrest Pending Gun Charges

Another fact that may distinguish this case from the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown shootings: Myers was on house arrest while waiting for trial in November for gun charges. The Post-Dispatch reports that Myers had been arrested in June after a high-speed chase, and he was free on bond on the condition that agree to an electronic ankle monitor.

It is hard to conceive that the conditions of his bond didn't include a no-firearms provision -- especially since he was facing trial for gun charges.

As of Thursday, no charges had yet been filed against the officer who shot and killed Myers.

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