Bar Owner Arrested Following St. Louis Police Officer’s Crash Into His Business

The owners of a gay bar in St. Louis were getting ready to finally relax on Sunday night after a long day of listening to loud karaoke and serving colorful cocktails. Then, around 12:30 a.m. on Monday, the owners, who are married and live above the bar, heard a loud crash outside.

They looked out their windows and saw that a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department vehicle had crashed through the front of their business, Bar:PM, shattering glass and causing extensive damage.

The couple, Chad Morris and James Pence, approached the group of officers who had gathered outside the building, in the Carondelet neighborhood of southeastern St. Louis, and asked what happened. But the police offered no answers, and according to a bystander’s video of the episode viewed by The New York Times, officers later handcuffed Mr. Pence and arrested Mr. Morris, claiming that they were “creating a disturbance.”

An officer identified in police records as John Pierce accused Mr. Morris of striking him “in the chest with an open hand,” causing him to lose his balance, according to police records. And a complaint states that Mr. Morris tried to strike Mr. Pierce “with a gate while fleeing from officers.”

But Mr. Morris’s lawyer, Javad M. Khazaeli, said that the opposite happened: Mr. Morris did not strike any officer, but an officer who was wearing a beanie hat beat him.

Mr. Morris was charged with one count of third-degree assault and one count of resisting and interfering with an arrest. On Tuesday, he was released from jail and the assault charge was downgraded from a felony to a misdemeanor, according to Mr. Khazaeli, who said that they planned to fight those charges and evaluate any civil actions against the Police Department.

Chad Morris showing bruises on his face after being released from jail.Credit…Chad Morris

A roughly 25-minute video clip of the couple’s encounter with the police that night does not show Mr. Morris shoving or striking an officer. Mr. Pierce, who did not respond to calls seeking comment, wrote in his report that Mr. Morris tried to flee from the police in an alleyway, an accusation that Mr. Khazaeli said was false.

The St. Louis police did not respond to emails or calls seeking comment.

“I feel like the situation has been handled horribly all the way around,” Mr. Pence said in an interview. He added: “All they needed to do was take responsibility, admit they had an accident, and handle it differently.”

The police encounter, which drew outrage in St. Louis, especially among the L.G.B.T.Q. community, is the latest instance of a police department’s facing intense scrutiny and criticism for escalating a situation.

The mayor of St. Louis, Tishaura O. Jones — whose 2021 mayoral campaign focused on fixing what she described as an “inefficient and ineffective” policing system — said on social media that the police interaction at Bar:PM “can break an already fragile trust with law enforcement.”

She added that “this incident is currently under investigation and the officers involved will be held accountable for any and all misconduct committed while on duty.”

Joe Steiger, the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association, a union for the officers, declined to comment on Wednesday.

Mr. Pence said that he was at home upstairs above the bar on Sunday night while his husband and the bar manager finished cleaning up downstairs and got ready to leave.

Then, he heard a loud crash that shook the building.

“That’s when I came down, and I was like, ‘What the heck?’” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. Pence said he asked the officer in the crashed vehicle what happened, and the officer, who has not been named by the department, replied, “I swerved to miss a dog.”

A video that captures the moment the police vehicle crashed into Bar:PM shows it swerving left toward the bar as it passes a parallel-parked vehicle on its right.

The bystander video shared by Mr. Khazaeli shows an officer asking Mr. Pence whether he has identification on him. Mr. Pence, sounding incredulous, says that the officers should not ask him to provide that.

After an officer handcuffs Mr. Pence, the bystander recording the interaction asks the officers what crime Mr. Pence is committing.

“He’s creating a disturbance, obviously,” the officer says.

The bystander then tells the officer not to get any closer. The officer replies, “How about you don’t tell me what to do,” and then calls the bystander a “clown.”

When Mr. Morris approaches the scene, he asks why his husband is in handcuffs, the video shows.

Mr. Morris eventually walks down an alleyway to cool off, his lawyer said, and several officers follow him.

The bystander’s video does not show what happened in the alleyway.

After several minutes, Mr. Pence is heard saying in the video that the officers are beating his husband in the alleyway.

The video then shows Mr. Morris emerge from the alleyway handcuffed, with his shirt tattered and with two officers behind him.

Mr. Morris says in the video that an officer punched the “left side of my eye.” A photo of him taken on Tuesday shows his left eye bruised and swollen.

Before the video ends, Mr. Morris is shown being put into the back of a police van in handcuffs.

“The way this escalated over a traffic incident is insane,” Mr. Khazaeli said.

Mr. Pence said that after the experience, he was left feeling that the police had sought “to turn the victim into the criminal.”



The owners of Bar:PM, a gay bar in St. Louis, had their evening disturbed when a police vehicle crashed through the front of their business. Chad Morris and James Pence, who live above the bar, approached the police officers for answers but were met with no response. According to a bystander’s video, the police arrested Morris and claimed that the couple was creating a disturbance. Morris’s lawyer denies the allegations and says that an officer assaulted Morris. Morris was charged with assault and resisting arrest, but the assault charge was later downgraded. A video of the incident does not show Morris striking an officer. The St. Louis police have not commented on the incident. The encounter has caused outrage among the LGBTQ+ community and adds to the scrutiny faced by police departments for escalating situations. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones has promised an investigation and accountability for any misconduct. The incident has left the owners feeling that the police sought to turn them into criminals.

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