Cops across the country seem to believe that civil disobedience should be met with sheer, brute force. Very rarely do they face consequences for their actions because the legal system is essentially built to protect them above anyone else. So, it’s not necessarily surprising that in one of the few times a cop is held accountable for their actions, the victim was also a cop. A former St. Louis officer was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday for beating a Black undercover cop at a protest.
According to the Washington Post, 34-year-old Randy Hays pleaded guilty in 2019 to using excessive force on Luther Hall during an incident in September 2017. Hall was undercover gathering information at a protest over the acquittal of former cop Jason Stockley in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith. Hall and his partner were following a group of people who were damaging buildings and feeding information back to an intelligence center.
From the Washington Post:
Hall continued to pursue the part of the group that caused damage but his chase ended when officers jumped out of a vehicle.
The undercover officer raised his arms up with a cellphone in one hand and a camera in the other, according to court documents.
As Hall complied with a command to get on the ground, he was picked up and slammed face-first into the pavement twice, causing blood to gush from his nose and lips, according to the civil complaint. He was then surrounded by officers who attacked him with batons, fists and boots, striking him in the head and body, court documents state.
Officers ordered Hall to put his hands behind his back even though they were standing on his arms, before placing zip ties on his wrists.
After Hall’s gear was searched and his camera battery thrown out by then-Officer Christopher Myers, he was further antagonized by Myers as he was shifting in pain, according to court records.
Myers hit Hall on the head and face with a shin guard, according to the civil complaint. Myers also smashed Hall’s cellphone with his baton, leading to a charge of destruction of evidence, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Hall suffered from herniated discs, a rotator cuff tear, a concussion, bruised tailbone, and a hole above his lip that required him to receive stitches. He has also been diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, and depression as a result of the attack.
“I feel the same helplessness I felt the night of the assault, as I laid on the ground being beaten in the head, neck, and torso,” he said in a written statement to the court. “The days I can’t sleep, I lay in bed in the dark and all I hear is the sound of my camera impacting the ground and voices of people yelling commands at me.”
I can’t help but wonder how this would’ve gone if Hall wasn’t a cop. If he was just another Black man protesting injustice, would these cops even have been sentenced at all? Considering how much brutality we saw last year in response to the nationwide protests against police brutality, the answer seems tragically obvious.
Hays is the first of three officers to receive a sentence for the incident. Former officer Dustin Boone was convicted of depriving Hall of his rights and will be sentenced at a later date, and former officer Bailey Colletta is expected to be sentenced on Thursday for lying to the FBI about her role in the assault.
Boone and Colletta were initially kept on the force until the FBI uncovered messages exchanged between the two where they expressed their excitement to beat protesters. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun beating the hell out of these [expletives] once the sun goes down and nobody can tell us apart,” Colletta wrote according to court documents.
Nothing like when they say the quiet part out loud.
Earlier this year, the city of St. Louis reached a $5 million settlement with Hall. Attorneys in the civil suit argued that Hall’s beating was motivated by race, which was probably a pretty easy case to make considering that Hall’s partner, who was white, was also arrested but not beaten.
“The reality is I will live out the rest of my life in some degree of pain,” Hall said in his statement. “Because of the [conscious] decision of Randy Hays and Bailey Coletta my physical being, mental health and overall life will never be the same. The decision of these officers has altered my career, professional and personal life.”