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Gardner rebuts criticism, cites need for police evidence to prosecute riot suspects

ST. LOUIS – Missouri’s attorney general and the St. Louis Police Officers Association went on the offensive in recent days against St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner, claiming she failed to prosecute anyone arrested during riots earlier this week.

Gardner responded by saying that she hadn’t received admissible evidence to charge them, and that she would bring charges once she got it.

“In yet another attack against us by the local Police Officers Association, I was accused of letting every person go who the St. Louis Police Department arrested for looting and rioting,” Gardner said in a video. She said the city police department had brought to her office a list of eight people the department wanted prosecuted. 

However, Gardner said, “We need the police to bring admissible evidence for prosecution to charge. My office cannot issue any cases when there is not admissible evidence for prosecution.” It would be unethical for her to do that, she said.

Gardner said police officials had assured her they would provide the required evidence.

“We need the evidence in order to make this determinations,” said Allison Hawk, a spokeswoman for Gardner.

City police spokeswoman Michaelle Woodling said the department had not made any comments on the circuit attorney’s office’s statements. Police Chief John Hayden said at a briefing on Tuesday that 25 people had been arrested for various charges, and that 55 businesses had been either damaged or burglarized.

During that briefing, Gardner joined Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Hayden in promising that they’d do everything they could to catch those responsible for the violence.

Repeated efforts to reach Police Officers Association Business Manager Jeff Roorda were unsuccessful.  

Meanwhile, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt joined in the criticism in tweets and an appearance on an interview program on a conservative website.

“In a stunning development, our office has learned that every single one of the St. Louis looters and rioters arrested were released back onto the street by local prosecutor Kim Gardner,” Schmitt said.

Schmitt also  retweeted an interview that Sean Spicer, a former press secretary for President Trump, held with him about the St. Louis disturbances on 

“We certainly want to be part of the conversation when there are big and  important discussions to be had,” Schmitt said. 

“When you see police officers being shot at, when you see firefighters being assaulted, when you see a retired police captain being murdered defending property, we need to make sure those people are being brought to justice,” Schmitt told Spicer in the interview.  “That every single person arrested that night was set free, and no charge were brought is very disturbing.”

In her video, Gardner fought back against Schmitt’s criticism..

“I’ve noticed that the attorney general is tweeting quite a bit about looting and rioters and not about the fact that we have a history of police violence in the city and nation, and that has caused people to take to the streets yet again, to demand accountability and change in our criminal justice system,” the circuit attorney said. 

“It is clear that he does not care about justice or safety or needs of this community. He just wants to launch a politically motivated attack against me, even if it means misleading and lying to the public,” Gardner said.

“While the [attorney general] continues to fuel the division in the community at its time of great pain, suffering and racial divide, my response to the [attorney general is]: I got work to do.”

Jim Merkel Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit

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