Crime

Details emerge about deputy-involved shooting as man indicted on federal gun, drug charges

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.

The 42-year-old East St. Louis man shot by a St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy has been federally indicted after police say they found a loaded stolen Taurus 9mm semi-automatic handgun and heroin near where he was shot and arrested.

Demetrius O. Ward is charged federally by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a controlled substance. He was in custody at a hospital Wednesday afternoon.

Ward had a prior conviction for a March 28, 2005, armed robbery. He was sentenced to six years in the Illinois Department of Corrections for that felony offense.

As a felon, it is illegal for Ward to possess a gun.

“I realize we live in a time and in a region, where officer involve shootings are flash points that are capable of sparking extremely emotional reactions. In moments like these, it is particularly important to calmly and objectively assess the facts to separate right from wrong,” U.S. Attorney Steve Weinhoeft said.

Demetrius Ward 2016.jpg
Demetrius Ward

“The facts in this case show that Demetrius Ward created an incredibly dangerous situation by crashing his car while he was speeding away from the police and then fleeing on foot, before reaching for a stolen 9 mm handgun in front of an officer who was forced to make a decision that no police officer should have to make,” Weinhoeft said.

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.

“Thankfully, no one was killed. But, this case reminds us why it is important to deter people from unlawfully possessing and using firearms, and of the dangers faced by men and women in law enforcement who put their personal safety at risk on every shift to keep the rest of us safe,” Weinhoeft said.

The criminal complaint states a deputy attempted to stop Ward on a traffic violation around midnight on Saturday. Ward allegedly did not stop the Monte Carlo he was driving and a police pursuit ensued.

The pursuit ended when the driver crashed into a pole at 18th and Ridge streets, the complaint states.

“The St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy ordered the lone occupant to get out of his car. He got out on the driver’s side. The deputy ordered the driver to show him his hands,” the complaint states. Police wrote that Ward then ran away from the deputy, at which point the deputy observed Ward “appear to drop something on the ground and then reach down to pick up what he dropped.”

“Believing the occupant of the silver Monte Carlo dropped and was reaching to pick up a handgun, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy fired multiple rounds from his assigned service weapon. One of the rounds struck the occupant of the silver Monte Carlo in his chest, causing injuries,” the complaint states.

Ward was taken into custody and then admitted to the hospital, where a federal agent spoke with Ward.

Ward told the BND earlier this week that he believes he did not put the deputy in danger. He says he got out of his car and put his hands up and was shot when he went to pick up the phone and money that fell out of his pocket. He also maintains the deputy was a good distance behind him while driving and Ward was unaware the officer was attempting to stop him.

However, the criminal complaint states: “Ward stated that he fled from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy and struck a pole. Ward said he heard the deputy’s command for him to exit his car, which he did. Ward admitted to attempting to run away from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy. As he began to run away a gun fell out of his waistband. Ward attempted to pick up the gun that fell out of his waistband and was then shot by the St. Clair County Sheriff’s deputy.”

Ward also admitted to the agent that he was aware that he was not allowed to have a gun in his possession, according to the complaint.

Check back to bnd.com for more on this developing story.

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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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