Cape Girardeau police chief responds to video showing altercation between man, officer during arrest; discusses use of force

Cape Girardeau's Police Chief is speaking out about the use of force after a cellphone video showing the actions of one of his officers goes viral
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 4:16 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 3, 2023 at 9:36 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - A Heartland police chief defends the actions of one of his officers after a video showing that patrolman striking and tasing a man is viewed and shared more than a thousand times.

30-year-old Shawn Stockard II faces two felony charges in connection with the altercation on Thursday afternoon, March 2 outside the Rhodes gas station across from the Show-Me Center.

Stockard is accused of assaulting the officer, and trying to take his gun, after allegedly stealing a few items from the convenience store. However, the roughly 48-second video shot by a witness and posted to social media begins with that officer repeatedly hitting Stockard before tasing him.

Concerns about the video prompted Cape Girardeau police to release his body cam footage of the altercation with Stockard around 7 a.m. on Friday. That footage runs about 2 minutes and 38 seconds.

They also released surveillance video taken from inside the business.

Chief Wes Blair called that an unusual move, but one he felt necessary given public concern.

“I understand that anytime you see a use of force like that, it’s going to cause concern, unless you have the context and know the entire story,” he said. “Which is one of the reasons why we wanted to go ahead and put that whole story out there. So individuals in our community who were concerned about how that transpired can see and make decisions for themselves on how they felt that was handled.”

We talked with Chief Wes Blair about the videos, and concern about the handling of Stockard’s arrest.

Blair said Stockard would not give his name, nor cooperate, and the physical fight started after the officer tried to handcuff Stockard.

The chief had this to say about his officer’s use of force.

“When we use force against an individual, it’s not supposed to be a fair fight,” he said. “Because a fair fight is not necessarily a winnable fight for the police officer, right? So, we follow the plus-one rule. We will use a level of force higher than what’s being used on the officer just to be able to take control of that person.”

Given everything he’s seen, the videos, the reports, the analysis, Chief Blair said he believes his officer didn’t do anything wrong.

“I think he used the appropriate amount of force that was necessary to get the suspect into custody,” he said.

“I think people don’t like to see a police officer punching someone,” he added.

The chief said he learned about the cell phone video Thursday afternoon and the social media post later that night.

“We recognized that this video would cause concern. And we wanted to be completely transparent with our community about what had happened,” he said.

Blair said what started as a stealing call quickly changed tone when Stockard would not give his name, nor comply with Willis’ commands. The officer moved in to handcuff Stockard and that’s when the chief described him pulling away from Willis and striking him in the face.

“The suspect was also attempting to grab the officer’s gun, which you can hear on the camera. The officer’s saying, ‘let go of my gun. Let go of my gun,’” he said.

“So in this particular case, with the suspect wrestling with him like that, up until the point where he started grabbing for his gun, the hand strikes were an appropriate use of force because the person is striking him and being combative with him,” Chief Blair continued. “The taser would be an appropriate use of force at that level as well. Once the person started grabbing for his gun, honestly, deadly force would have been an appropriate level of force to use. But the officer thought that he could control that situation without resorting to that. And so he did.”

We asked Blair if Stockard is a suspect in a minor stealing case, why is the officer trying to handcuff him?

“At the point when the suspect is being non-compliant, he admitted that he’s on...he called them salts, which is bath salts. Which is a narcotic. For officer safety purposes, the officer should handcuff that person. That’s not necessarily an arrest that that point. That’s just a detention and handcuffing for officer safety purposes,” Blair explained.

He said cell phone videos capturing a portion of an officer’s conduct can raise a lot of concerns, and not just for the public.

“There have been videos we’ve seen across the nation that are legitimately horrific videos of abusing their authority and abusing people,” he said. “So when you see a video like that, even when we first saw this video, it makes us take a step back and go, ‘ok, we really need to look into that.’ And make sure that the actions are appropriate.”

Chief Blair said Officer Willis has been on the force since November 2020 and has never faced any kind of discipline.

His use of force and use of his taser will be separately reviewed and a report will be made available in the coming days.

“When there is an incident and questions arise, we will always be transparent with our public because that’s the reason we are allowed to police our public is because they do trust us,” the chief said.

Blair said his review of the video and the incident found that Stockard did not ask for medical assistance at any point, and he was not visibly injured.

We reached out to a member of the suspect’s family to see if they had any comment.

That person responded, saying they’ve been advised by an attorney not to say anything to us.