Crime

‘I think he was trying to kill me,’ man says after being shot by deputy

Video shows officer-involved shooting in East St. Louis

Demetrius Ward was shot by an unnamed St. Clair County Sheriff's deputy on Jan. 19 in East St. Louis. This video was captured by an onlooker.
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Demetrius Ward was shot by an unnamed St. Clair County Sheriff's deputy on Jan. 19 in East St. Louis. This video was captured by an onlooker.

A 42-year-old East St. Louis man is speaking out after he was shot by a St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department deputy early Saturday during an attempted traffic stop at 18th Street and Ridge Avenue in East St. Louis.

“I didn’t know he was trying to stop me. I was on 27th and Missouri, I think. He was way down there by Top Metal on 49th and Old Missouri. He turned around and that’s when I saw him,” Demetrius Ward told the BND Tuesday. “He had his lights on. I didn’t know he was coming for me. He was way behind me. If I was trying to get away from him, I could.”

Ward said the deputy was alone when the shooting occurred.

“I did not put that man in danger. He told me to get out of my car with my hands up and that’s what I did. My money and phone fell out of my pocket. I went to pick it up and he said ‘What, you stupid?’ and started shooting,” Ward said. “... I think he was trying to kill me. He shot me through my chest and it came out of my back.”

“He didn’t give me a chance. This could have all been avoided,” Ward said. “I want my side of the story to be heard, too.”

In a video posted on a private page on Facebook, the deputy is heard yelling, “Get out of the car, and put your hands up!” The deputy then shouts for the man, who has exited the car, to show his hands and back up. The man then begins to run away from the officer before stopping and bending over as if to pick something up off the street.

The deputy yells “stop right there!” and then fires multiple shots.

Ward was charged with one count of a felon in possession of a .9mm pistol in connection to the shooting.

Illinois State Police officials said they are not commenting further because the incident is under investigation.

The identity of the deputy involved has not been released. ISP officials said it is the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department’s responsibility to release that information. St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said Monday the name should come from ISP.

The deputy has seven years of law enforcement experience, according to St. Clair County Capt. Bruce Fleshren.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said Saturday the deputy was not wearing a body camera, nor did the car have a dashboard camera.

The BND is pursuing both release of the deputy’s name and the video of the incident.

Demetrius Ward 2016.jpg
Demetrius Ward

Learning about the shootings

Ward’s girlfriend, Erica Scruggs, found out about the shooting on Facebook around 2 a.m. Saturday.

“My friend came over and woke me up. That’s when I discovered my car was all over social media,” Scruggs told the BND. “I called his sister. While I was waiting for her to pick me up, I got a it bang on my door. When I opened the door it was the Illinois State Police detective.”

Scruggs said the ISP detective asked her if she knew why she was there and if they owed anyone money or had other conflicts with someone. He also asked her if Ward sold drugs and if he owned a firearm, Scruggs said.

“After his questions, I asked what the traffic stop was for and where my car was,” she said. “He told me my car was under investigation. He asked me if he could interview me.”

Scruggs said Tuesday she still does not know why the deputy initiated the traffic stop.

Sister is suspicious

LaFrieda Ward told the BND she is suspicious about what happened that morning.

She learned later from Scruggs that her brother had been taken to emergency surgery.

“No one notified me. I am his next of kin. I should have been notified,” she said.

She said the agent with the state police kept asking Scruggs whether Ward owned a gun and whether the two of them had any enemies.

“What does this have to do with the deputy shooting my brother?” Ward asked. “The deputy shot him, not an enemy.”

LaFrieda Ward was able to see her brother Saturday for about 15 minutes under supervision of an ISP agent. She said she learned during the visit that Illinois State Police had recorded an interview with Ward and she noticed injuries to her brother’s face.

“He told us if we asked (Demetrius Ward) anything at all about the incident we wouldn’t be allowed to come back to the hospital,” LaFrieda Ward said.

Police said Ward has an armed robbery conviction from 2015.

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Carolyn P. Smith has worked for the Belleville News-Democrat for 18 years and currently covers breaking news in the Metro-East. She graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri at Columbia and says news is in her DNA.
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