Brandon Claxton, Teen Paralyzed by Police Shooting, Sues St. Louis, Police

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Brandon Claxton
  • Brandon Claxton
Brandon Claxton, the sixteen-year-old boy who was shot by officers on a playground in north St. Louis last July and left a paraplegic, has filed suit in federal court.

The suit, filed by Claxton's mother on his behalf, names the officer who shot him, Michael Cohen; the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, the city; the mayor; and both the police board of commissioners and its members.

The suit says Brandon was playing with his fifteen-year-old brother when he was shot three times by police. The shots severed his spine and injured his liver and pancreas.

Police were on the scene because they'd received a report of a stolen gun. But while the officers claimed that Brandon had come charging at them with a gun, that's not what witnesses told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. According to a story the paper ran about the incident in July,
One of three witnesses interviewed Sunday told a reporter that Brandon did have a gun in his hand. But all three said that he did not point a weapon at anyone as he tried to run from officers.

The witnesses also said they were concerned about the proximity of children on a playground nearby when the officer opened fire. One said a girl, about 6, even ran out of her shoes while trying to get out of the way. Nobody else was hurt.
The suit alleges Brandon was a C student who was about to enter the tenth grade and had just landed a job at Goodwill. He was not a member of a gang; in fact, he'd only been in trouble once, six years ago, when he was with a friend who was accused of shoplifting at Macy's. He was released without charges.

The lawsuit casts serious doubt on the police version of the incident.

As attorney D. Todd Mathews of Edwardsville, Illinois, writes,
In stark contrast to the version of the surrounding facts proffered by the eyewitnesses, that Brandon was not wielding a weapon and was running in the opposite direction from which the officers were approaching, the officers allege that Brandon had a gun and either approached the three officers or pointed it at them as he ran. Both of such versions cannot possibly be true: either he was running away or he was approaching, but he could not physically be doing both.

Supposedly based upon this contradictory alleged provocation, Officer Cohen gave no instructions or admonitions, instead immediately opened fire with his service weapon on Brandon.
The suit includes a sad image: Just one day before Brandon was shot, he was playing in his front yard when Officer Cohen drove past, the suit alleges. On that day, the officer and the boy waved at each other.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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