February 23, 2017
ArchCity Defenders statement following the released investigation report into Tyler Gebhard’s death:
“How inappropriate is it for the news media to get the documents and information before the family does, yet again? I can’t comment on what’s in the paper when I haven’t even seen the report. I come from a family of police officers, so I thought I understood how the system worked, but the lack of communication and accountability has broken my trust in the system and caused immense suffering. My heart goes out to other families who have lost loved ones at the hands of police, and been dragged through such a murky process. No one should have to go through this hell,” Marlene Gebhard, grandmother of the late Tyler Gebhard, after learning that the investigation report on Tyler’s death had been released to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and published in an online story on February 15, 2017.
St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and Chief Jon Belmar have once again demonstrated their complete lack of regard for the families of people who have been killed by the police. In what has become an all too familiar response to families across America who have had loved ones killed by the police, law enforcement in St. Louis has systematically refused to involve the family or be sensitive to their needs in any way. Additionally, the unexplained delays in this case reflect a strategy by law enforcement to merely wait out the public until another tragic killing occurs and diverts the spotlight.
On July 9, 2016, Tyler Gebhard was killed by an off duty police officer, in Affton, Missouri. Since the night he was killed, Tyler’s family has requested information pertaining to Tyler’s death multiple times and repeatedly been denied access. Instead of giving the family a single shred of supporting evidence, the police and prosecutor refused to provide even so much as a death certificate or medical records related to Tyler’s death. On November 17, 2016, the family and ArchCity Defenders held a press conference to raise questions and concerns. Only afterwards did the family receive Tyler Gebhard’s death certificate, which arrived the day before Thanksgiving. Even now, the family has been told that they must wait for weeks more for the St. Louis County Police to provide the family with documents and information.
Like so many families who have had a loved one killed by the police, the Gebhard family has suffered greatly while awaiting a long-promised report of the investigation into his shooting death. Instead of releasing documents to the family first, Mr. McCulloch’s and Mr. Belmar’s offices provided information directly to the media. The decision to exclude the family served to further insulate police, create a public dependence on the police narrative, and exacerbate the family’s grief and stress.
While the family of Tyler Gebhard is considering all possible options, they have two common sense demands of police and prosecutors investigating the death of a loved one: 1) Give grieving families a phone number to call when they have questions about their loved one’s death; and 2) Agree to update family members on any discoveries made by their office prior to releasing them to the general public.
Z. Gorley, Communications Director at ArchCity Defenders