Florissant, Mo., officer charged with assault for hitting suspect with SUV

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June 17 (UPI) -- Prosecutors on Wednesday charged a former Florissant, Mo., police detective with assault after he was caught on camera appearing to strike a suspect with an SUV.

St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Time Lohmar announced the charges against Joshua Smith, 31, including first-degree assault, fourth-degree assault and armed criminal action.

Lohmar said the charges stem from a June 2 incident in which Smith hit a suspect with an unmarked police SUV before exiting the vehicle, and kicking and jumping on the suspect. Investigators haven't released the name of the suspect.

"The police SUV turned directly toward the victim, continued to accelerate and collided with the victim, causing a severe leg injury," Lohmar said during a news conference.

"Immediately thereafter the victim, you see is knocked down, he's in tremendous pain and he's screaming. He gets up and tries to run away and realizes he can't do that. So he falls in the yard, which is just about 6 feet away from the point of impact. And he's on his back and you see officer Smith -- before he tries to apprehend the victim -- he kicks him and later strikes him.

"That would constitute the misdemeanor assault charges that we have filed."

Florissant police Chief Tim Fagan said Smith chased the suspect and two other men because their vehicle matched the description of a vehicle from a shots-fired call.

Fagan said Smith initially wrote in his report that he tried to avoid hitting the man.

"The video evidence just proves that was patently false, that didn't happen that way," Fagan said.

The chief fired Smith last week.

The video footage prompted protesters to gather outside the Florissant police headquarters to call for Smith's prosecution. They blamed the incident on police brutality and racial bias; the suspect is black and Smith is white.

The incident comes amid weeks of protests against police brutality after the police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Protesters demand justice in police killing of George Floyd

Demonstrators hold a sign in Los Angeles on June 14 for Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot by police in her home while she was sleeping. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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