Probationary police officer crashes SUV into St. Louis gay bar, owner charged with assault

A police cruiser crashed through the front of a gay bar in south St. Louis early Monday, and a co-owner of the bar was charged with assault after a brief scuffle with officers.

The SUV rammed into Bar:PM at 7109 South Broadway, in the city’s Carondelet neighborhood, about 12:30 a.m. Monday.

The 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe was heading north on South Broadway when its driver, a 32-year-old probationary officer on the force less than a year, thought he was too close to a parked car, police said. He overcorrected and lost control of the vehicle, careening into the bar, authorities said.

The crash then led to an incident with one of the bar owners:

Co-owner Chad Morris began yelling obscenities at police, authorities said. Officer John Pierce, there to investigate the accident, told Morris to back up and said he would talk to Morris in a few minutes, court records say.

But Pierce said Morris “struck me hard in the chest with an open hand,” causing the officer to temporarily lose his balance, according to charging documents.

Pierce told Morris he would be arrested, and Morris took off running through a gate, swinging the gate to hit the officer, court documents allege. Two officers followed Morris into an alleyway, and he tried to push a trash can at them, police said.

Prosecutors charged Morris, 37, with third-degree assault and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

A judge ordered Morris held without bond. Morris did not have an attorney listed in online court records. Police said Morris was taken to a hospital complaining of a pre-existing medical condition.

James Pence, Morris’ husband and co-owner of the bar, said police told them they had hit the building after swerving to avoid a dog in the road. Pence said he didn’t believe that explanation.

“I wish they would tell me truly what happened,” Pence told KTVI.

Pence lives above the bar and heard the commotion and came downstairs to find the damage.

“Accidents happen. Any one of us can get in an accident any day. I accept that,” Pence added. “Own it. Tell me what happened. Fix the building.”

Pence said he was also briefly handcuffed in a dispute with police over his identification.

A 22-year-old officer was riding as a passenger in the police Tahoe. He also was a probationary officer with less than a year’s experience. Neither officer was injured in the crash, and it injured no one in the bar, police said.

Bar:PM is a popular gay bar, and supporters gathered there Monday afternoon to help clean up and secure the building. Clint Cox, a longtime friend of the bar’s owners, said the bar opened nine years ago. It features dart throwing and drag.

Cox said he and others were volunteering their time Monday to board up the front of the bar. They also rebuilt the wooden frame at the entrance so the business could be securely locked before permanent repairs are made. The main entrance, including two storefront windows, were smashed by the police vehicle.

Another friend of the bar’s owners, Giuliano Mangiore, said he was donating his time for the repairs Monday because it was important to him that the bar stay open.

“This is a safe spot for people in our community. This is like our family’s place,” Mangiore said.


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