Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Uplands Park Auxiliary Officer Acquitted of Going beyond Authority

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Uplands Park Auxiliary Officer Acquitted of Going beyond Authority

Article excerpt

UPLANDS PARK * Lamont Aikens held no police officer's license but believed he had full police powers here while acting under direction of someone who did, he testified Friday in a trial that turned on that issue.

As an auxiliary officer, he wore the same uniform with the same baton and pepper spray on his belt. His sleeve patch said "police," not "police officer" like the others. Department policy said he could drive a patrol car if a licensed officer was beside him.

Those, he told a St. Louis County judge, were the circumstances on Dec. 3, 2009, when he chased a speeding car into St. Louis. It crashed into another vehicle, killing Lashanna Snipes, 34, a mother of four, who was driving family members to hang Christmas lights.

Prosecutors said what Aikens described amounted to a crime: knowingly holding the commission of a police officer without a valid license, a Class B misdemeanor.

But defense attorney Bobby Bailey said his client was only "doing what he was told to do."

Circuit Judge Dennis Smith agreed, acquitting Aikens after about four hours of testimony.

Aikens had chosen a trial over a plea bargain for probation. But another former Uplands Park auxiliary officer, Kenneth Minner, who officials said had joined in the chase, accepted the same deal Friday morning, pleading guilty of the charge. His record will be erased if he successfully completes the terms.

Witnesses in Aikens' trial included a former Uplands Park officer, Rose Gill, who said the acting police chief and village leaders ignored her repeated complaints about the practices of auxiliary officers.

Gill said Aikens would drive a police car at sobriety checkpoints by himself, and made at least one arrest. She said the acting chief, Lt. Henry Smith, "told me not to worry about it, that it was none of my business."

Gill said she quit in frustration after the fatal crash. …

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