A St. Louis police officer crashed his patrol car into a gay bar on Monday and then arrested one of the bar’s owners after an alleged altercation.
Chad Morris and James Pence, who co-own Bar:PM and live above it, said they came downstairs after they heard the crash at around 12:30 a.m. Monday morning, according to local NBC affiliate KSDK-TV.
“I was actually already in bed (and) I heard a loud boom,” Pence said, according to KSDK-TV. “I jumped up thinking it was an accident with a vehicle, and then, I saw it, and it was a St. Louis city police department vehicle in the front of our building.”
An officer was driving too close to a parked car Monday morning and then overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, crashing into Bar:PM, according to an incident report from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The report says an “offender” came outside and “began shouting obscenities” at police officers after the crash, but it doesn’t name the offender. When one of the officers “attempted to calm the situation,” the report stated, the offender shoved one of them. The offender was arrested for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest, according to the report.
The police department referred NBC News to the Office of the Circuit Attorney, which did not immediately return a request for comment.
St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said at a news conference on Monday that the incident is still under investigation.
The couple and their attorney disputed the police department’s account.
Pence said he was the first on the scene, and he was put in handcuffs before Morris was arrested for refusing to show his ID. After he refused, Pence said, he thought an officer made an offensive comment to Morris.
“My husband did put his hand on a cop out of defense, because they had already put me in handcuffs, because I wanted to know what was going on,” Pence told KSDK-TV. “I was told I had to ID or shut up.”
Pence initially told KSDK he heard a police officer make a homophobic remark, but he later said he couldn’t be certain it was an officer and not another bystander, the couple’s attorney, Javad Khazaeli, said Tuesday.
Khazaeli said he has video that shows Pence arriving at the scene, an officer approaching Pence and asking him if he’s the owner, Pence saying yes and then the officer asking to see Pence’s ID. Then, Khazaeli said, the video shows Pence responding: “Why should I show my ID? I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“He says it loudly, because he’s not happy,” Khazaeli said of Pence’s response in the video. “And an officer says, ‘You don’t get to yell at me. You’re under arrest for disturbing the peace.’ And then when bystanders repeatedly asked the officer why was he arrested, he said, ‘Nobody gets to yell at me,’ which is not the standard for an arrest.”
Khazaeli said Pence was handcuffed but was not ultimately arrested.
Khazaeli alleged the video, which he said he couldn’t share because he plans to use it in his defense of Morris, shows that the officer threatened to arrest the person videotaping him.
Khazaeli said Morris arrived at the scene and began asking why his husband was being handcuffed and that officers began yelling at him. He said Morris was trying to leave the scene down an alley when officers grabbed him and physically beat him in the alley, which is off camera.
Khazaeli also shared what he said was surveillance footage from a nearby business that shows the police vehicle “flying” down the street where the bar is.
Khazaeli said in a post on X that prosecutors agreed to release Morris on Tuesday morning on his own recognizance and that they reduced the felony assault charge to a misdemeanor.
“Our goal is to have all of these charges dismissed because there’s no basis for them, and then to decide what kind of claims my clients have against these officers and to hold the officers accountable, because this just can’t stand,” Khazaeli told NBC News on Tuesday. “You can’t have police officers terrorizing people, because they’re victims of a crime. And when they asked what happened, to be treated this way.”
On Monday morning, St. Louis resident Zach Gandy, whose group the Rudis Leather Society regularly visits the Bar:PM said bar employees called to tell him what happened, so he gathered about a dozen volunteers to help clean up the bar so it can reopen.
“Anytime somebody is in trouble and you know you can help them, you do everything in your power to get them back up and running,” Gandy told KSDK-TV. “That’s just what this community does.”