St. Louis Metropolitan police are investigating the egregious actions a civilian employee in the department allegedly took -- including sexual assaults and drive-by shootings -- to control and manipulate a man who first came into his care as a teenage boy.
Michael Cornell, 28, of the 1500 block of Sells Avenue, is in jail facing four counts of forcible sodomy, one count of impersonating a police officer, four counts of deviate sexual assault and one count of third-degree assault. But as the police investigation continues, allegations against Cornell could lead to a variety of other charges, including child pornography, misuse of a law-enforcement database and weapons offenses.
Cornell joined the St. Louis police academy in December 2007, apparently following in the footsteps of family members, but was terminated after four months. He was hired three months later as a civilian employee with the unit that processes suspects into jail.
See also: Mother Accuses Alton Police of Mistreating Daughter After Brutal Sexual Assault Police are not naming the adult victim who lived under Cornell's care as a teenager after the victim's brother was jailed for a weapons offense. The victim's mother is dead, and his father was in jail at the time, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The victim's allegations, recorded by Internal Affairs investigators, paint a horrifying picture of abuse and manipulation by a predator who used a fake police uniform shirt and connections in the department to maintain control and avoid detection.
Cornell, who kept other children in his home and sometimes in bed with the victim, isolated the victim from his friends by targeting them in drive-by shootings, the victim tells police, according to the P-D. Cornell told the victim he committed one of the shootings with a friend who worked with him at the jail. Police are investigating at least three drive-by shootings, which caused at least one injury, tied to Cornell.
Cornell also claimed responsibility for having the victim arrested at least twice on bench warrants. In March 2013, the victim spent eleven days in jail on a warrant that would typically have resulted in release, and Cornell reportedly told the victim he'd arranged it with his connections in the justice system.
Months later, a judge released the victim into Cornell's custody after the victim was charged as an accessory in a crime in federal court. Cornell reportedly wore a police shirt and a gun holster to court and claimed to be the victim's brother; investigators say Cornell does not have a concealed-carry permit.
With his control over the victim now court sanctioned, Cornell began sexually abusing him. Cornell told him he'd had to have sex with other men, including a "big shot," to get the victim released and demanded that the victim return the favor, according to the P-D. When the victim refused, Cornell became violent.
The victim says he ran away from the abuse only to have Cornell call police pretending to be an officer and report that he was shot by the victim's father. Charges were never filed, but a complaint from that incident finally got Cornell on Internal Affairs investigators' radar.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson urged anyone with additional information to call Internal Affairs at 314-444-5405.
"Criminal conduct by any employee will not be tolerated," Dotson says. "When these allegations were brought to the department's attention, we took immediate action, initiated an investigation and moved swiftly to seek justice for the victim and protect the community."
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