St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner is suing her own city and the city’s police union for what she calls a racist and coordinated conspiracy to get her out of office.
Gardner’s complaint, filed in the Eastern District of Missouri on Monday, also cites the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, accusing city officials of violating the law meant to combat white supremacist organizations. Her suit marks the first time a local elected prosecutor has taken the police union to court over race-based civil rights violations.
“This isn’t about Kim Gardner,” she told ABC News‘ “Nightline” in a recent interview. “This is about certain individuals within these organizations that have gone beyond unprecedented amounts of coordination to stop the will of the people. I had no choice but to act for the will of the people because they want me to fight for what’s right.”
“It’s about the people, and that’s why we have to fight,” Gardner added. “Enough is enough.”
As the city’s first Black woman top prosecutor, Gardner has made criminal justice reform a top priority. She put a diversion program in place for non-violent offenders struggling with drug addiction, and her office no longer prosecutes low-level marijuana crimes, according to the outlet.
Other efforts proposed by the prosecutor have been thwarted, however. Now, she’s looking to go after the “entrenched interests” she claims have intentionally tried blocking efforts to reform racist practices in the city’s criminal justice system.
In her suit, Gardner specifically accuses the city’s police union of going out of its way “to support white officers accused of perpetrating acts of violence and excessive force against African American citizens.” She also cited data from the state attorney general’s office showing Missouri’s Black residents are subjected to nearly twice as many traffic stops as white residents.
“The Ku Klux Klan Act was adopted to address precisely this scenario — a racially motivated conspiracy to deny the civil rights of racial minorities by obstructing a government official’s efforts to ensure equal justice under law for all,” it continues.
The complaint also alleges several civil rights violations on the part of the city and St. Louis Police Officers Association leadership, and points to St. Louis’ “long history of racial inequality and prejudice … within its police force particularly.” Special prosecutor Gerard Carmody, who indicted an investigator brought on by Gardner, is also named as a defendant. The investigator, William Don Tisaby, is charged with evidence tampering and perjury in connection to his role in an investigation of scandal-plagued former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who resigned from that office in June 2018. Gardner had been scheduled to give a deposition this week in the case against Tisaby,
In her suit, the top prosecutor cites a bombshell report published by a watchdog group last year that unearthed dozens of racist, violent social media posts by city officers, including one from 2018 that read: “If the Confederate flag is racist, then so is Black History Month.”
In a separate Facebook post, a Missouri officer claimed he “Offered to sell a T-shirt emblazoned with the words, ‘Black Lives Splatter, because Blue lives matter.'”
Gardner’s suit goes on to mention police union business manager Jeff Roorda’s support of Darren Wilson, the white officer who gunned down Black teen Michael Brown, 18, in nearby Ferguson in 2014.
The union has since responded to the prosecutor’s case, calling it “frivolous and without merit.” Gardner, however, is standing by her claims.
“The union believes this is a grand distraction meant to misdirect the attention that Gardner’s deposition is sure to generate,” the group said in a statement.
The St. Louis Police Officers Association has since renewed calls for Gardner, elected in 2016, to resign “to be removed from office through any means available.”