Charges being dropped against ex-officer at victim’s request

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Assault charges will be dropped against a former suburban St. Louis police officer who shot a shoplifting suspect, a decision reached after the victim and the ex-officer participated in a mediation aimed at resolving conflict.

The St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said Monday that Ashley Fountain Hall asked for dismissal of charges against Julia Crews, 39. The process known as restorative justice mediation took place Nov. 5.

Crews was a police officer in the well-to-do suburb of Ladue, Missouri, on April 23, 2019, when she was called to a Schnucks grocery store, where Hall and another woman were accused of taking a grocery cart of steaks and seafood without paying. Hall allegedly struck a grocery worker in the face. Store workers held Hall down in the parking lot until police arrived.

Crews, who is white, said she intended to deploy her Taser to restrain Hall, who is Black, but mistakenly pulled out her service firearm and shot Hall in the back. Crews resigned after the shooting.

Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell’s office said Crews and Hall agreed to participate in a restorative justice mediation conducted through a videoconference. In the restorative justice process, the victim and the offender work together toward a resolution, typically with the help of a facilitator.

In this case, the volunteer facilitator was Seema Gajwani, chief of the Restorative Justice Program for District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine. Bell and Lisa Jones, his office’s manager of victim services, also participated.

“This was a unique opportunity where the defendant immediately realized she had made a terrible mistake in shooting the victim, and both the defendant and victim reached places where they could see a resolution for this incident outside of the criminal justice process,” Bell said in a news release.

Last year, the city of Ladue agreed to pay $2 million to settle Hall’s lawsuit. The suit said Hall tried to break away from police in fear prompted by the history of Black people who aren’t armed “being shot by white officers.” The city admitted no wrongdoing in the confidential settlement.