ST. LOUIS — A state commission has ruled that a former St. Louis-area police officer can be disciplined for pointing a semi-automatic rifle at Ferguson, Missouri, protesters more than two years ago.
Raymond D. Albers was a lieutenant for St. Ann police working at a protest 10 days after the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014. Video showed Albers pointing a gun at protesters and swearing at them. He resigned days later.
The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission ruled last month that Albers committed third-degree assault and harassment, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2ceRzxG ) reported.
His case now returns to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, which could suspend or permanently revoke Albers’ peace officer’s license. The director of public safety is supposed to set a hearing to determine how Albers, who worked for the department since 1994, should be disciplined.
“Given his prior experience as a police officer, we conclude that a reasonable person in Albers’ shoes would recognize an ‘unreasonable risk’ and a ‘high degree of probability’ that the safety of the public would or could be jeopardized if a weapon were pointed at persons in a crowd while threatening them,” the commission ruled.
Brown, who was black and unarmed, was fatally shot by white Ferguson officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. Wilson was eventually cleared of wrongdoing and resigned in November 2014, but the shooting set off months of often violent protests. St. Ann, which is near Ferguson, was among the towns that provided law enforcement help.
Albers, who has said he “feared for his personal safety” during the Aug. 19 protest, can appeal the commission’s decision. He said he was hit with a bottle of urine, saw two men with Molotov cocktails and saw a third man with a handgun raised. Video shows him with his gun raised, and he has said he was scanning the crowd looking for the men.
Albers also argued that a police officer is authorized to use any amount of force necessary to protect himself or others and that using a weapon to scan a crowd was a normal police operation used during unrest in Ferguson. As members of the crowd shouted at Albers, he appears on the video to say, “I will (expletive) kill you. Get back,” then cursing at someone who asked his name.
Another officer arrived and used his hand to lower the rifle, pointing it toward the ground.
The American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which was in charge of security, the next day, urging Albers’ removal. He was suspended without pay and resigned later that month.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com