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After attack by colleagues, Detective Luther Hall wants out — of St. Louis | Law and order

ST. LOUIS — Luther Hall Jr. was born in St. Louis. This is where he found the job that he loved — being a police officer.

But after being beaten and permanently injured by fellow officers in 2017, and comparing the consequences to those officers and himself, he says he now has to leave.

“I’m just kind of … done with St. Louis,” he said in a wide-ranging and emotional interview with the Post-Dispatch and KMOV Wednesday. “I need to go.”

Voice breaking, Hall, 55, struggled with his emotions when he talked about joining the force, the attack, racist texts by a fellow officer, lack of support by the department and officers he thought were his friends, and the effects on his body and his mind. 

Luther Hall

Luther Hall, the former undercover police detective beaten by his colleagues during an anti-police violence protest on the night of Sept. 17, 2017, talks in his first interview with news reporters in the KMOV TV studio about his ordeal. Photo by Hillary Levin,

Hall’s story is backed by charging documents plus evidence and testimony in two federal trials of his attackers. He has never spoken previously outside of court, declining multiple interview requests in the years since the attack.

Working undercover

Hall and his partner, Louis Naes, were working undercover on Sept. 17, 2017, during one of a series of anti-police violence protests when he encountered Civil Disobedience Team officers at the intersection of 14th and Olive streets downtown.

Hall had been live-streaming the protest with his cellphone, to help other officers identify vandals and pull them out of the crowd, and to let commanders know where he was. He wouldn’t learn until later that no officers were watching. It was one of a series of upsets or betrayals that he says he suffered on and since that night.

Hall was planning to return to headquarters to download videos and photos. But when he saw uniformed officers, he put his hands up. Federal prosecutors have said officers mistook Hall for a protester and detained and arrested him without legal cause. They also said at least two officers had expressed an eagerness to assault protesters.

As Hall was following an officer’s order to get on the ground, he was picked up and slammed down face-first, twice.

“And then I just started feeling, I could feel, like, people just punching and kicking and striking me as I was laying on the ground,” Hall recalled.

Luther Hall's injuries

A photo of Luther Hall, taken after his arrest, showing his injuries, was introduced as evidence at the trial on March 17, 2021.

“When it was happening, it seemed like it (lasted) forever,” he said, acknowledging that the beating probably went on for a minute or two.

Hall said he did not fight or pull away and did not break his cover, in hopes that he could continue to work undercover during protests. He didn’t recognize his attackers and they didn’t recognize him.

Hall said after the attack, he knew he was hurt. He didn’t know how badly. His face felt warm. His back and neck hurt and he couldn’t get comfortable sitting on the curb, his wrists in zip ties.

Eventually a sergeant recognized Hall and took him to the Real Time Crime Center at police headquarters, where he briefed supervisors about the attack while blood dripped from his face.

“These guys kicked my ass,” Hall recalls telling bosses. He also told them right away, “these were city policemen,” Hall said.

The commander of the intelligence division moved him out of the crime center, perhaps because he didn’t want others hearing about the attack. Hall also thinks supervisors were wrestling with the dual questions of how to get Hall medical attention and how the department was going to deal with an assault by officers.

Hall said his emotions were everywhere. “I was angry. I was definitely stunned. I mean I couldn’t believe that that happened. I was disappointed in the agency I worked for,” he said, voice breaking again, “that we would just treat someone who was standing there — I mean there was no reason for that type of arrest.”

Hall said he was not questioned about the details of the attack. After receiving medical treatment, he went home and slept.

A week or so later, Hall said a commander called to ask what he wanted to do about the attack.

Hall said he didn’t know. He was still processing it and seeing doctors.

That changed after news reports insinuated that Hall was resisting arrest. That he didn’t show his hands.

“I was really upset,” Hall said. “I was angry. To think that not only did I get assaulted, now my own agency is telling people that I resisted arrest.”

Asked about the department’s response, Hall said, “It definitely made it worse.”  

More than a month after the attack, Hall and lawyer Lynette Petruska met with Internal Affairs investigators. Hall said those investigators had a folder with only a few pieces of paper inside. They didn’t know the names of his alleged attackers, even though Hall had provided names, given to him by allies within the department.

He said the department didn’t file a report on his injury, and there has never been a police report filed on the incident.

“To this day, there is no documentation within the police department of what happened,” Hall said.

Hall and Petruska believed an internal investigation would be fruitless. Both had higher hopes for a federal investigation. 

The Post-Dispatch requested an interview with Chief John Hayden to discuss Hall’s case. A spokeswoman declined comment, referring a reporter Thursday to a prior statement in which Hayden said the department had put internal investigations on hold at the request of federal officials.

“Our Department has fully cooperated with the federal investigation and has been assured that the FBI will fully cooperate with our internal investigation,” the statement says. The spokeswoman said the investigation is ongoing.

The Ethical Society of Police said, “Luther didn’t get near the level of support that he deserved from the department for the work that he did.” The group advocates for Black and minority officers. 

A spokesman for the St. Louis Police Officers Association did not return a message seeking comment. 

Federal trials

On Nov. 29, 2018, four officers were indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis in connection with the attack on Hall. A fifth, Steven Korte, was charged a year later.

Officers charged

St. Louis police officers (clockwise from top left) Christopher Myers, Dustin Boone, Randy Hays and Bailey Colletta in photos taken outside the Thomas F. Eagleton U.S. Courthouse in St. Louis on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Post-Dispatch staff

Hall said he was hoping for “some sort of justice,” something that would inspire problematic officers to say, “Hey, look, maybe I need to change my behavior.”

“But I don’t think anything came out of it,” Hall said.

Bailey Colletta and Randy Hays pleaded guilty before trial, with Hays admitting to the assault. He was later sentenced to four years and four months in prison

Colletta received probation for lying to the FBI and a grand jury.

In March 2021, a jury acquitted Christopher Myers and Korte, who is the only one of the five still on the force, of a felony civil rights charge and acquitted Korte of a charge of lying to the FBI. Jurors could not agree on charges against Myers and Dustin Boone.

In June, a new jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge against Myers. Boone was convicted of aiding and abetting the deprivation of rights under color of law. Under federal sentencing guidelines, he faced 10 years in prison, and prosecutors asked for that amount. Boone’s lawyers requested 26 months. U.S. District Judge E. Richard Webber sentenced Boone to a year and a day in prison in November, prompting Hall to walk out of the sentencing hearing.

Myers was sentenced to one year of probation in March after pleading guilty to a federal misdemeanor and admitted damaging Hall’s cellphone.

Hall praised the FBI and federal prosecutors, but said he’s lost faith in federal juries because of the trial outcomes. The sentences Webber handed out, he said, felt like “a slap in the face.”

The aftermath  

Hall suffered a concussion in the beating and injuries to his jaw, neck, elbow and back. His gallbladder was removed. He has to take medicine for that and is unable to eat sugary or greasy foods without stomach pain. He’s lost about 30 pounds. Surgeons implanted a titanium ring filled with bone from a cadaver to essentially fuse vertebrae in his back. He bears a scar on the front of his neck from the installation of two titanium plates there. He says he has to take pain medication almost every day.

Doctors warned him that he is more vulnerable to falls. Hall, voice breaking again, said he’s been forced to stop mountain biking, road biking, inline skating and skateboarding for fear of ending up in a wheelchair.

Hall is still a police officer, although he said he is on “injured” status.

And there have been psychological effects. “For the longest time I had trouble just sort of driving past there,” he said, referring to the site of the attack. He said he has an “uneasy feeling” going to police headquarters, and “issues” being around too many officers.

He worked as a St. Louis police officer for 22 years, but now says he feels betrayed and crushed by the smears and the fact that no one was watching when he was undercover. “I don’t have any confidence in the agency or the people that I worked with, especially during that time,” he said.

Hall said racism contributed to the attack. In court, prosecutors pointed out that Naes, who is white, ran into a separate group of officers and was allowed to go on his way without incident.

Hall believes some of the officers involved in his attack were never identified.

A lot of the commanders in power that night have left, Hall said, meaning there is no way to hold them accountable.

But Hall thinks Internal Affairs is doing a better job investigating cases now than in previous administrations, and the department is doing a better job of weeding out bad officers. 

“So I’m hopeful that it will get better at some point,” he said.

Hall said the department still needs to address officers with a “racist mentality” who pass that along to younger officers in training. 

Hall had supporters in the department, he said, both Black and white. But “not as many supporters as I thought I had, and a lot of my colleagues that I thought were friends … turned out to be, you know, like some of the worst people that were saying things behind my back, putting out false stories.”

Hall settled a civil lawsuit against the city and the police department last year for $5 million. The suit is pending against individual officers.

Hall said despite the settlement, he still wants to work and contribute to society. Just not in St. Louis.  

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