Assault suspect released from jail after positive COVID test, Missouri police union says

·3 min read
Frank Franklin II/AP

A man accused of punching a woman and dousing her with scalding soup was released from a Missouri jail hours after his arrest because he tested positive for COVID-19, according to a representative with the department’s police union.

Jane Dueker, an attorney with the St. Louis Police Officers Association, says the man was arrested by a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer soon after the alleged abuse on Jan. 4.

But she says he was released a few hours later — not leaving time for the judge to sign a no-bond warrant at the request of the circuit attorney, and significantly less time than the 24 hours police can hold a suspect before charges must be filed.

The female victim recalls the suspect calling her after his release to say he got released in three hours because of COVID-19, and she now refers to the virus as a “get out of jail free card,” according to Dueker.

A police public information officer confirmed to McClatchy News that a suspect was arrested on that date in connection to domestic assault charges “shortly after the incident occurred,” and he was released before a warrant was made.

The department would not confirm if the man tested positive for COVID-19, citing medical privacy laws. However, police confirm a judge has since issued an at-large, no-bond warrant for his arrest.

“He is actively being sought by our department,” the spokesperson said.

Dueker says he should have been held long enough for the warrant to be signed, adding that the suspect was a danger to the woman and their shared child. She also said he’s a danger to the community, having tested positive for the coronavirus.

The police union said it believes this man is not the only arrestee being released from jail because of a positive COVID-19 test. A department spokesperson did not confirm or deny the allegation to McClatchy News.

“We certainly have a problem with how this is being handled from numerous perspectives,” Dueker said.

It is her belief that what she calls “catch and release nonsense” can be traced back to the mayor. She suspects Mayor Tishaura O. Jones is trying to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the city’s downtown jail as she doesn’t want to isolate those in custody at the “Workhouse” — the city’s old medium-security jail — though the union concedes it does not have proof of this.

Closing the Workhouse has been a part of the mayor’s plan to “re-imagine public safety in the City of St. Louis,” KSDK reported in July, as the city worked to reduce the need of people in need of incarceration.

A spokesperson for the mayor’s office said “this is a police matter” when asked if the city had a statement regarding the case, and referred McClatchy News to the police department’s media contact.

The mayor’s office did release a statement from Corrections Commissioner Jennifer Clemons-Abdullah to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It said the department works with police, the sheriff and local hospitals on “a case-by-case basis to determine our best course of action while limiting exposure to the virus,” according to the newspaper.

The commissioner did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.

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