A Year After Police Murder, Lies and Coverup:

Justice for VonDerrit Myers NOW

Updated October 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


October 8 marks the anniversary of the death of VonDerrit Myers Jr. On that day, one year ago, Jason Flanery, a St. Louis, Missouri cop working as security guard, chased VonDerrit down and killed him in a hail of gunfire.

Immediately after VonDerrit’s killing, people who had been protesting at the nearby Ferguson, Missouri police station—against the police murder of Michael Brown—jumped in their cars and took off to the murder site. They joined young people from that south side St. Louis neighborhood. Ministers were there to join in protesting the killing. And in the year since, there have been repeated protests. A month of actions around VonDerrit's murder is going on in St. Louis currently. And activists are calling for a national day of action around VonDerrit on Oct. 22.

VonDerrit Myers Jr. and Syreeta Myers

VonDerrit Myers, Jr. and his mother, Syreeta Myers. October 8 is the one-year anniversary of VonDerrit's murder by off-duty St. Louis cop Jason Flanery. Photo: courtesy Syreeta Myers.

VonDerrit’s Mother: “He Was Loved…. He Had Big Dreams”

Leading up to the anniversary of her son’s death, VonDerrit’s mother—Syreeta Myers—issued this statement:

“Unfortunately I was forced into this club no parent wants to be a part of. My one and only child, VonDerrit Myers Jr. was executed by an off duty cop October 8, 2014. The media attacked my son’s character and demonized him.

“Here is what you don’t know about VonDerrit. He was loved. He was a student. He loved basketball and the latest fashion. He was intelligent and an intellectual. He had big dreams.

“When VonDerrit was killed he was not committing a crime. He just left out of a store after buying a sandwich. Jason Flannery did not have the right to pursue anyone that was not engaged in a felony act. There was no forensic evidence or one eye witness that put a gun in VonDerrit’s hand. All the bullet wounds to VonDerrit’s body were from the rear, and one fatal shot to his head.

“This has left my family confused, hurt, lost, empty, and destroyed. That’s why we need people to join us at Rise Up October in New York, Oct. 22, 23, 24.

“Justice for all the families that have been impacted by police brutality.”

Prosecutor Backs Murdering Cop

On May 18, 2015—over seven months after VonDerrit’s murder—St. Louis City Circuit Attorney (prosecutor) Jennifer Joyce announced there would be no criminal charges against Jason Flanery. No indictment, no trial, not even a grand jury pretense, because according to the prosecutor, there was “no reasonable basis for filing criminal charges.” The prosecutor’s report is a cover-up. And it is based on and enshrines a legal framework and justifications for cops to racially profile, target, hunt down and murder Black youth for no reason at all.

The incident that ended with VonDerrit’s death began with Flanery, employed as a private security guard for a wealthy enclave in the Shaw neighborhood where VonDerrit lived, giving chase to a young man. Flanery lost that youth, then came upon VonDerrit who he mistook for the first youth he was chasing. Flanery confronted, chased and killed VonDerrit.

Flanery and the St. Louis Police Department never acknowledged this mistaken identity—that Flanery started chasing one person and then gunned down a different young man. That was revealed from GPS records from the ankle bracelet VonDerrit was required to wear. GPS records, and a surveillance video from a neighborhood market where VonDerrit walked and bought a sandwich, proved that he wasn’t the same person Flanery initially chased.

The legal justification given for chasing the first youth is that he ran away from Flanery, leaving his basketball behind, and that his hand was pinned to his stomach, possibly indicating possession of a gun. No gun was ever seen or found. So not only did Flanery kill the “wrong” Black man, he had no reason to be messing with the person he was originally harassing in the first place.

Flanery then encountered VonDerrit, who according to this pig was committing the “crime” of putting on a jacket! Flanery claimed this must have been to change his identity—as if any Black person putting on a jacket is guilty of a crime and should be killed!

Flanery says he commanded VonDerrit to get on the ground but VonDerrit backed away and cursed at him, while supposedly “grabbing his waistband.” Flanery claimed there was a scuffle, and VonDerrit escaped and ran away. Flanery shot VonDerrit six times in the back of the legs before shooting him in the head and killing him.

Lies and Coverup

Flanery claims there was an exchange of gunfire, and he acted in self-defense. But he stated in his police report that the gun he recovered in the gangway where VonDerrit lay dead had a shell casing jammed inside it, rendering it unable to fire. If VonDerrit had a gun, it was not working when Flanery shot him in the head and killed him.

The prosecutor’s report contains numerous findings that contradict the account given by Flanery (who refused to be interviewed by the prosecutor) or given by the St. Louis police. In Flanery’s statement to police, he said that the reason the back of VonDeritt’s legs were shot six times was not because VonDerrit was running away with his back turned, but because he was on the ground and his legs were lifted in the air in front of him. The prosecutor’s report determined VonDerrit was shot in the back of the legs while running up a hill. But the teport somehow failed to note that Flanery lied about how and why he shot VonDerrit.

Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?

"Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?" is a clip from the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. The film is of the November 2014 historic Dialogue on a question of great importance in today's world between the Revolutionary Christian Cornel West and the Revolutionary Communist Bob Avakian. Watch the entire film here.

In the months following VonDerrit’s death, police loudly announced that gunpowder residue was recovered from VonDerrit’s hands as proof that the gun found at the scene was VonDerrit’s and that this supposedly proved Flanery’s story of killing him in self-defense. This became another big media story. The prosecutor's report states there is no definitive gunpowder residue evidence that VonDerrit discharged a firearm that night. And the prosecutor’s report states that the gun identified as VonDerrit’s yielded no fingerprints or DNA evidence from VonDerrit or anyone else. 

In his statement to the police, Flanery identified VonDerrit’s recovered weapon as a 9 mm Ruger. Later, this was changed to a Smith and Wesson. This fit nicely with what became a big media story when an image from social media showing VonDerrit with a Smith and Wesson was loudly blared in news stories, as if simply having a picture of a person holding a gun is evidence he shot at someone.

Details that are stated in the prosecutor’s report—that definitive evidence of gunpowder residue from a discharged weapon was not found on VonDerrit, that fingerprints or DNA from VonDerrit or anyone else was not found on the gun, that the type and make of the gun said to be VonDerrit’s was changed, and with some witness statements regarding the gunfire sounds and sequences, along with a known practice of police planting weapons to justify their murders (like was shown in the video of the police murder of Walter Scott) have raised suspicions that the gun that police and prosecutor say was VonDerrit’s was actually planted by police.

A SYSTEM of “Legalized” Police Murder

The prosecutor’s report invokes laws that justify police brutality and murder. These are hunt-and-kill codes.

A legal standard used in the prosecutor’s report is that the use of physical force, such as Flanery pulling out his gun and then forcibly grabbing VonDerrit when he saw him, is legally justified when “the officer reasonably believes the arrest is lawful.” So the attempted arrest, or at least an “investigative stop,” is lawful even though Flanery was grabbing the wrong person (mistaken for the person he chased earlier), whose only offense was running away from him.

A St. Louis American article reviewing the prosecutor’s draft report provided in advance, refers to the legal justification for cops chasing down someone who has done nothing. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Illinois v. Wardlow states that unprovoked flight from a police officer justifies the officer in pursuing the suspect for an investigative stop. UNPROVOKED flight?  Think about this! Every single day Black and Brown people are stopped, harassed, brutalized, and often killed by cops.

Can any reasonable person deny that all this amounts to a standard where a Black person is presumed “guilty till proven innocent,” if they live long enough to prove their innocence?

The prosecutor’s report also states that “deadly force” is justified when a suspect “is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon.” And remember that cops see evidence of a deadly weapon when a Black youth touches his waistband. These legal rulings read like a slave catcher’s manual. One thing you will NOT find in the prosecutor’s report is anything about the rights of a young Black person to be treated like a human being and not as a permanent criminal suspect with a target on their back.

Yes there IS a Sinister Coverup

The same media that has repeatedly promoted police statements as fact which later are proven to be false (without bothering to inform the public they were lied to), has ridiculed the notion that there might be a cover-up in VonDerrit’s murder. In December, after the St. Louis Police Department came out with their report upholding Flanery’s murder of VonDerrit, a video interview with VonDerrit’s parents was broadcast. The reporter’s voiceover says mockingly: “to believe the version of events Vonderrit Myers Jr.’s parents believe, you have to be willing to believe the police are staging a sinister cover-up. It’s just that simple.” What is actually “just that simple” is the proven instances and pattern of how police and prosecutors routinely lie, cover up and provide legal justification for police murders. They have been caught doing this repeatedly.

Yes, there is a “sinister coverup” and it goes way, way beyond this particular police murder. Sometimes prosecutors lead Grand Juries to let killer police walk, like with Darren Wilson who murdered Mike Brown in Ferguson. Sometimes there is some kind of “special investigator” brought in. Over and over again police murder Black and Brown people and walk away with a pat on the back.

Which Side Are You On?

In a statement issued immediately after the murder of VonDerrit Myers, Carl Dix said:

Why does an off-duty cop feel like he can be making "pedestrian stops" of Black youth while he's moonlighting as a security guard? This killing and the story the police are using to justify it reflect how Black people are criminalized in this society. Some Black youth walking together are suspicious and need to be jacked up by a cop, even if the cop is off duty. This is like the Black Codes that southern states, including Missouri, enforced during the days of slavery which gave whites the power to break up any gatherings of 3 or more Black people. And it brings to mind the 1857 Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which said that Black people had no rights that white people are bound to respect.


Which side are you on?



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