ST. LOUIS — A man with a violent criminal history in North Carolina was charged Monday in the shooting death of a Missouri police officer, the immediate aftermath of which was livestreamed on Facebook.
Officer Michael Langsdorf of the North County Police Cooperative was killed Sunday afternoon in the St. Louis suburb of Wellston after responding to a call about someone trying to pass a bad check at a small market. Langsdorf was a 40-year-old father of two.
Bonette Kymbrelle Meeks, 26, was charged Monday with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, unlawful possession of a firearm and resisting arrest. Meeks is jailed without bond and does not yet have a listed attorney.
Assistant Police Chief Ron Martin said at a news conference that Meeks was unknown to his department but had several convictions in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. He didn't elaborate but said Meeks had an "extensive, extensive criminal history, and violent."
Live video of the moments after the attack, showing the officer bleeding, was posted on Facebook by Kashina Harper, 34, a clerk at Clay's Wellston Food Market Restaurant in the town of Wellston, where the fatal confrontation occurred. She apologized Monday, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she doesn't know why she did it.
"I regret it," Harper said through tears. "I didn't know the officer was going to die."
Harper said she only began taking video of the officer on the ground after she called for help, using the radio near his belt.
Harper told the newspaper she has received death threats. Comments on her Facebook page on Monday were a mix of people angry with her and people defending her.
Martin said police acted to have the video removed, but declined to say if Harper took it down or if Facebook did. Phone calls seeking comment from Harper went unanswered.
The Post-Dispatch briefly provided a link to the video on its website, STLtoday.com, before deleting the link. The newspaper said Monday that posting the link was "bad news judgment," and apologized to readers for doing so.
Martin fought back tears Monday as he discussed Langsdorf, his friend of two decades — the two of them previously worked together with the St. Louis Police Department. Martin was surrounded by more than a dozen police leaders from other jurisdictions, all wearing a black band over their badges.
"There is no such thing as a routine call," Martin said. "This is the danger that police officers in this community face every day."
It started out as a routine call Sunday about a man trying to pass a bad check.
Martin said video surveillance showed that Meeks, the man suspected of passing the check, and Langsdorf began to struggle near the counter. During the struggle Meeks pulled a gun from his waistband and shot the officer in the side of the head, leaving him dazed, Martin said.
Meeks was able to stand up and shot Langsdorf again, this time in the back of the neck, Martin said. The bullet went into the officer's spinal cord and came out the front of the chest. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Meeks ran from the store with the gun and was captured a short time later, Martin said. The gun had not been reported stolen but police were still trying to determine how Meeks, a convicted felon, obtained it.
Langsdorf spent 17 years with St. Louis police before joining the cooperative just three months ago. The cooperative provides police service for seven communities in north St. Louis County.
The region's tight-knit police community took the shooting hard. Officers lined up Sunday night and saluted as Langsdorf's body was driven from Barnes-Jewish Hospital. St. Louis police said on Twitter that the loss of a police officer "breaks the hearts of first responders across the country. We pray for the family, friends, & colleagues of Officer Michael Langsdorf."
Republican Gov. Mike Parson said on Twitter that Langsdorf died while "bravely carrying out his oath to serve."
North County Police Cooperative Chief John Buchanan said Langsdorf, though with the department only a brief time, was a mentor to younger officers.
"When I first met him he said to me several times, 'All I want to do is be a police officer and do police work,'" Buchanan said.
The Officer Down Memorial Page website, which tracks officer deaths across the country, said Langsdorf was the 59th police officer to die in the line of duty this year.