Amid a renewed national fixation on Ferguson, you may have missed the dramatic scandal now brewing inside the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
News outlets citing anonymous police sources report that the indictment of a recently-suspended SLMPD officer is just the tip of the iceberg of a criminal investigation into a local drug ring. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that as many as twenty civilians and several officers may be involved. So far, the investigation has focused on one former SLMPD patrolman: Don McGhee.
According to an indictment handed down Wednesday in federal court, McGhee maintained connections to individuals distributing crack and marijuana from of a house on the 3800 block of Cottage Avenue.
On March 2, 2014, McGhee transported a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun with a pistol grip to the drug house, the indictment continues. Two days later, the shotgun, along with ammunition and several other firearms, were recovered during police raid on the property.
McGhee now faces one felony charge for delivering the shotgun while "knowing, believing, or having reason to believe that the drug dealer would use the shotgun in relation to and in furtherance of the drug trafficking." On Thursday, he turned himself in to authorities, pleaded not guilty and was released on $20,000 bail.
"The actions of this individual betrayed the trust of the community and compromised the integrity of the Metropolitan Police Department," said SLMPD Police Chief Sam Dotson in a prepared statement. "The department will continue to investigate any allegations of misconduct or unlawful behavior and will not allow the actions of this individual to tarnish the reputation of our department."
U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan declined to confirm if McGhee was part of a larger drug ring protection racket, but he did tell the Post-Dispatch that this is "a first step" in an investigation that "has been going on for some time."
The timing of McGhee's indictment is significant, to say the least. On February 27, McGhee was suspended from the SLMPD and resigned shortly afterward. He had joined the SLMPD in May 2011.
McGhee was the third officer removed from the force that week. According to police sources, McGhee, Keith Major and Durand Brassfield were connected to a months-long internal investigation sparked by accusations that they were cooperating with a drug ring, reports the Post-Dispatch.
If that weren't enough to raise eyebrows, McGhee was reportedly the target of a December drive-by shooting that put him in the hospital for a week with wounds to his leg. During the shootout, McGhee returned fire and killed Terrell Beasley, and hours later Beasley's body was discovered in a burning car. Dominic Lamont Irons, a parolee, was later charged for driving the vehicle from which Beasley shot McGhee, but no motive has yet been established for why they targeted him.
We've reached out to the U.S. Attorney's Office and SLMPD for further comment, and we'll update the story if we hear back. In the meantime, here's the indictment against McGhee.