O’Fallon, MO – Two O’Fallon police officers who fatally shot an armed teen after the suspect nearly hit them with a stolen car and crashed into a patrol vehicle will not face criminal charges, prosecutors announced (video below).
According to a letter sent to the O’Fallon police chief earlier this week, St. Charles County Prosecutor Timothy Lohmar concluded the officers’ “use of deadly force was objectively reasonable given the facts and circumstances presented to the officers,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Lohmar said the officers believed their lives and the community’s safety were at risk at the time of the incident.
The fatal encounter began shortly before 11 a.m. on Jan. 23, when the O’Fallon Police Department (OPD) received a report of a “suspicious vehicle” with no license plates idling in the 500-block of Prentice Drive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
When OPD Officer Matthew Vegovisch arrived at the scene, he spotted the vehicle and found two people asleep inside, according to police.
The officer later told St. Charles County Police Department (SCCPD) investigators that as he approached the car, he saw “a hand on the center gear shifter and simultaneously saw a hand holding a black handgun,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
His partner, OPD Officer Michael Manzella approached the stolen car from the opposite side.
Bodycam footage showed Officer Vegovisch as he drew his duty weapon and knocked on the driver’s side window.
The driver, 17-year-old Christopher Jones, looked at him briefly then glanced back towards the inside of the vehicle, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“Hey – don’t,” Officer Vegovisch warned as he tried to open the door.
The officer told Jones to open the door, then suddenly smashed a hole in the driver’s side window using his firearm, the video showed.
Jones threw the car into reverse, crashing into the front of a patrol car and narrowly missing Officer Vegovisch, who quickly backed way.
Officer Vegovisch opened fire on the vehicle and continued shooting as Jones drove through a yard and over a bush, then took off down the road, the video showed.
Investigators said Officer Manzella had also jumped out of the way when Jones put the car in reverse.
He opened fire on the car 11 times after he heard what he believed to be gunshots coming from inside the vehicle, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Officer Vegovisch fired four rounds.
Officer Manzella jumped in his patrol vehicle and chased after the suspect vehicle, which came to a stop several blocks away, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Officers swarmed the stolen car and arrested Jones’ teenage passenger.
They began administering CPR on Jones until he was rushed to SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds.
Jones had gunshot wounds to his head and back, according to investigators.
The bullet that traveled through his back was fired by Officer Vegovisch, causing his fatal injuries, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Officer Manzella fired the round that struck Jones in the head, investigators said.
Police recovered a stolen firearm from inside the suspect vehicle, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The car had been reported as stolen from Kirkwood weeks before, according to police.
SCCPD Captain David Tiefenbrunn, whose agency investigated the incident, said that “every officer-involved shooting is a tragic incident for all involved,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. Warning – Graphic Content: