Former St. Louis police officer sentenced for civil rights violations

A former St. Louis Metropolitan Police officer was sentenced to 52 months in prison for depriving a handcuffed arrestee of his civil rights by assaulting him and forcing a gun into his mouth.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson of the Western District of Missouri, announced the sentence.

Thomas Carroll, 52, of St. Louis, admitted during his plea hearing that he punched the victim, identified in court papers as M.W., in the torso while the victim was handcuffed.

Based on evidence presented at the sentencing hearing, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Autrey of the Eastern District of Missouri found that Carroll forced his gun into M.W.’s mouth and that M.W. sustained painful and obvious injury.

“When law enforcement officers abuse their authority, they not only violate the law but they also threaten the ability of responsible officers to earn the public trust and do their jobs effectively,” Gupta said in a statement to the press.

Dickinson said, “It’s a sad day when a uniformed police officer is sent to prison for violating the constitutional rights of a citizen. No one is above the law, and no one has the right to take the law into their own hands. Now this disgraced officer will face the consequences of his violent crime.”

According to evidence presented at the plea and sentencing hearings, on July 22, 2014, M.W. was arrested at Ballpark Village near Busch Stadium in St. Louis because he was allegedly in unlawful possession of a credit card that belonged to Carroll’s daughter.

Carroll, who was on duty that night, responded to Ballpark Village and confronted M.W., who already was under arrest, handcuffed and seated in the backseat of another officer’s patrol car.

Carroll yelled at M.W., telling him that he made a “huge mistake” and that he “broke into the wrong girl’s car.”

Two other officers then drove M.W. to the central patrol police station and Carroll followed behind in his own patrol car.

Carroll admitted that despite orders from a superior officer to stay away from M.W., he entered the interview room where M.W. was handcuffed and being held.

Carroll began yelling at M.W., questioning him about who broke into his daughter’s car and threatening him.

Carroll then picked M.W. up and threw him into a wall.

While M.W. was on the ground and still handcuffed, Carroll punched M.W. in the torso.  Carroll then forced his department-issued service weapon into M.W.’s mouth and threatened to shoot him.  The gun chipped M.W.’s teeth and bloodied his lip.

M.W. also suffered significant pain and bruising to his torso and ribs.

In a separate but related case, Bliss Worrell, 28, of Clayton, Missouri, a former prosecutor for the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, was sentenced today to 18 months’ probation for concealing her knowledge of Carroll’s assault.

Worrell pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2015, to misprision of a felony.

Worrell testified at Carroll’s sentencing hearing that while she was working as a prosecutor, Carroll, with whom she had become close friends, bragged about assaulting M.W. and forcing his gun into M.W.’s mouth.

Worrell admitted that she filed charges against M.W. without disclosing knowledge of the assault to her colleagues, supervisors or the judge assigned to setting a bond.

She also admitted during her guilty plea that she allowed the charges to stand despite later learning that the facts supporting the attempted escape charge were fabricated to cover for injuries that M.W. sustained during the assault.

These cases were investigated by the FBI’s St. Louis Division, in cooperation with the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

These cases were prosecuted by First Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Ketchmark of the Western District of Missouri, who has been appointed as special attorney to the U.S. Attorney General, and special litigation counsel Fara Gold of the Civil Rights Division.