Saturday, April 03, 2010

MO: Cop charged in man’s death had pushed him down stairs

Police erase videotape

An Overland police officer charged in a man's death had quarreled with the man and pushed him down a flight of stairs at an Overland duplex, investigators said Tuesday.

A surveillance camera the victim kept for security may have helped crack the case. The victim, Ken Hamilton, 49, was pushed the night of March 20 after the altercation at Hamilton's duplex on West Milton Avenue. He died five days later, on March 25, according to the St. Louis County medical examiner's office.

On Monday, Overland Police Officer officer Andrew Thomas Ringeisen was charged with one count of first-degree involuntary manslaughter. Ringeisen, 34, is a seven-year veteran of the Overland Police Department.

"There was a verbal argument, which led to the officer pushing the citizen," County Police spokesman Rick Eckhard said Tuesday. "The citizen fell down a flight of stairs."

Overland Police Capt. Michael Laws, the acting police chief of Overland, said a few other Overland officers have been suspended with pay from the department while the investigation continues to see what role, if any, they had. Laws refused on Tuesday to say how many other officers are involved or to identify them.

The victim's brother, who handed a surveillance tape over to police, now says the tape may have been erased.

Neighbors decribed Hamilton, the victim, as an unemployed man who lived with his brother and nephew. He was known about the neighborhood for driving a rusty Jeep adorned with police lights and a siren. "A police wannabe," is how one neighbor described Hamilton.

On March 20, a Saturday night, Hamilton apparently got into a road rage incident with another motorist and used his Jeep's police lights and sirens at one point. When police heard about that, they knew who it was and went to Hamilton's home.

Laws did not provide details about what happened next, but said officers did not use guns or Tasers on the man. "The gentleman got hurt and subsequently died from his injuries," Laws said. "Obviously, this is a very tragic situation."

Hamilton's brother, Joe Hamilton, apparently heard thumping noises and went to investigate. He found Ken Hamilton at the bottom of a staircase that separates two duplexes. But Joe Hamilton saw no police officers out there.

The Hamilton brothers had a surveillance camera mounted on the side of the duplex, with the lens trained on a walkway leading to the front door of 2612 Milton Avenue. Another camera was pointed to the street. Joe Hamilton said he gave Overland investigators a tape from that camera, to help determine who had been there earlier.

Joe Hamilton told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday that when he gave the tape to police, "I thought they were on my side." At that time, he didn't know a police officer is the one who allegedly pushed his brother. By the time Overland police had turned the tape over to county investigators, it had been erased, Joe Hamilton alleged.

An autopsy was performed by Dr. Kamal Sabharwal, who declined comment through a spokeswoman Tuesday on the cause of death. Hamilton was taken off life support at the hospital on March 25, after some organ donations were made.

Laws asked St. Louis County police to investigate on March 21, the day after the incident. "We didn't want anybody accusing us of a coverup," Laws told the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday.

The County Police Department's investigation resulted in the charges filed Monday against Ringeisen. Ringeisen lives in Troy, Mo. Once the warrant was issued Monday, bond was set at $40,000. He surrendered to police on Wednesday, posted 10 percent of the $40,000 bond and was released.

Original report here

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