ST. LOUIS, MO – A strange case coming from a police-involved shooting has resulted in charges of assault and armed criminal action being levied at two police officers who claimed the suspects tried to run them over when they opened fire.
However, investigators are saying that the officer’s charged in the case fabricated aspects of the alleged threat on their lives.
— sharon harding (@shschaumburg) July 25, 2020
Velda Police officers Matthew Schanz and Christopher Gage are at the center of this controversial case which has cropped up from a police-involved shooting from February 25, 2020.
The incident all started when the officers attempted to pull over a man, not identified at this time, near West Florissant for toting expired temporary tags on their vehicle.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell stated that upon pulling the vehicle over, the officers told the driver that they intended to search their vehicle after smelling marijuana. However, Bell stated that the aforementioned wasn’t sufficient probable cause to enact a search.
According to charging documents, the driver of the vehicle then fled after being told the aforementioned by officers, and the officer’s radioed that the driver attempted to run them over and thus the officers opened fire on the suspect.
However, prosecutors said that security camera footage obtained nearby proved that the two officers didn’t only fire with the suspect heading directly in their path with his vehicle. Apparently, the two officers continued to fire upon the vehicle after it maneuvered out of the officers’ path and began fleeing.
Prosecutors are saying that’s when the use of force became criminal.
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Bell stated that officers Gage and Schanz repeatedly fired upon the suspect after he drove around the officers, and the driver eventually crashed the car after being struck multiple times by gunfire.
While the condition of the driver as of now is unknown, it was reported that he was in critical condition after the shooting in February.
During the press conference announcing the charges, Officer Schanz happened to be among the crowd and reportedly interrupted portions of Bell’s reading of the charges and the case in general. The charged officer insisted that his and his partner’s life were in danger on February 25th when the shooting occurred.
UPDATE: One of the officers, Matthew Schanz, interruppted the press conference. He has been disciplined for past allegations of domestic abuse, evading police, throwing his badge at his chief, and splattering blood on a hospital worker, records show. https://t.co/Ahc5suX7EW
— Erin Heffernan (@erinheff) July 24, 2020
Speaking with a local news crew before turning himself in to police custody, Officer Schanz stated the following about the case:
“We are trained to neutralize that threat and that’s exactly what we were trying to do… not trained to turn around and run away.”
Officer Gage has not commented on the case, but his attorney noted that they intend to fight the charges.
While there doesn’t seem to be any blemishes in Officer Gage’s police record, that is not the case with Officer Schanz. It turns out that Officer Schanz was once a St. Louis Police officer before becoming a Velda PD officer, but a domestic dispute that turned into a police chase saw the officer fired from the St. Louis PD back in 2014.
The details of Officer Schanz’s 2014 termination from the St. Louis PD actually stemmed from a drunken fight he’d gotten into with his boyfriend back in March of 2013. Police say that Officer Schanz slammed his boyfriend’s foot into a door, choked him, and slammed his head against a wall numerous times during the domestic situation.
— Greg Jonsson (@Jonssonville) March 2, 2016
When Officer Schanz’s then-boyfriend dialed 911, the officer grabbed his service weapon and hightailed it out inside of his vehicle while drunk. A police pursuit then followed and Officer Schanz initially ignored commands to stop his vehicle, but then eventually came to a stop. His actions resulted in his termination.
Then, in 2017 (a year prior to joining the VPD) Officer Schanz’s also pleaded guilty to reckless conduct after an alleged assault on staff that took place in August of 2016 at the Randolph County hospital.
Bail for the two officers is currently set at $75,000.
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