St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on February 23, 2017 · A03
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · A03

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St. Louis, Missouri
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Thursday, February 23, 2017
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A03
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02.23.2017 Thursda M 1 s T. LO u I s PO s T- I s P a TC h A3 LOCAL BY JOEL CURRIER s t. Louis Post- ispatch CLAYTON Reginald Tucker was scavenging for scrap metal before dawn at a Jennings apartment complex in 2014 when a man confronted him, screamed and fired a shot through the windshield of Tucker’s pickup truck. The shot missed Tucker but left bullet holes in his front and rear windows. Tucker drove to the Jennings police precinct to report the incident. About that much is undisputed in Robert “Keith” Bennett’s assault trial Wednesday before St. Louis County Circuit Judge Nancy Watkins. Jurors were asked to decide whether Bennett was the aggressor or defending himself, and if Tucker was collecting trash or stealing valuable scrap from the complex. Bennett, 59, who lives at and owns Rolling Hills Apartments in the 8800 block of Maya Lane, is charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action. The trial is expected to end Thursday. Tucker, 49, of Florissant, told jurors he is a disabled Army veteran and a part-time roofer and a “junker” who collects and sells scrap metal to make ends meet. He said in court that he has a 2011 stealing conviction in St. Louis for scrapping. Tucker testified that he backed up his pickup to a trash bin at the complex about 5 a.m. Feb. 28, 2014, after seeing scrap scattered around it. “Junk on the ground, that’s fair game,” Tucker said. Hearing clanking metal, Bennett came out of his leasing office concealing a 9 mm pistol in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He walked toward the truck and spotted a man standing nearby. He said he thought the man was either illegally dumping trash or stealing from an adjacent parked trailer loaded with scrap. Without identifying himself, Bennett said he hollered at Tucker to drop the material and leave the property. Tucker, who is black, and Bennett, who is white, said they called each other racial slurs. “I couldn’t believe that he shot because I was already leaving, and I wasn’t no threat to him,” Tucker said Wednesday. During the confrontation, Bennett said he believed Tucker was approaching him, which is why he fired a warning shot into the truck’s windshield. Tucker started to leave but promised he’d come back for Bennett. Bennett did not call police to report the incident. In a fiery cross-examination, the defense labeled Tucker a “dishonest” convicted thief and pointed out several inconsistencies in Tucker’s statements to police and in sworn depositions. Tucker struggled to explain why he told police he had been to the apartments only once before but later said he had scrapped there at least 10 previous times. Bennett testified that he bought the 128-unit complex in 2009. He said he has been a strict but fair landlord who has rehabbed and leased numerous apartments to people with criminal records and bad credit. Joel Currier 314-621-5804 @joelcurrier on Twitter jcurrier@post-dispatch.com Landlord claims self-defense at shooting trial Bennett BY KIM BELL s t. L ouis Post- is patch FLORISSANT A man who admitted stealing thousands from an athletic fund at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church has agreed to have no contact with the Archdiocese of St. Louis for five years. That was part of an unusual sentencing agreement Friday between prosecutors and the defendant, Steven Mathew Orf, 43. He pleaded guilty of receiving stolen property while he was president of the athletic association at St. Rose. St. Louis County prosecutors and Orf’s own attorney say the agreement barring him from property of the archdiocese even extends to a church. He also can’t be involved in any organizations of the archdiocese during his probation. Police say $16,700 was stolen between September 2014 and February 2015. An internal audit by the archdiocese revealed the missing money, and Orf was charged with felony stealing in October 2015. Seventeen months later, the case wrapped up in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The felony stealing charge was amended to receiving stolen property, because of issues with the state law of felony stealing; and Orf pleaded guilty before St. Louis County Circuit Judge Kristine Kerr. Orf received a suspended imposition of sentence. Kerr put Orf on probation for five years, and he must repay the money. If Orf violates his probation, he could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. If he successfully completes probation, he would have no felony conviction on his record. Orf must follow the typical conditions of probation, including reporting to a state probation officer. He also has to stay away from the victim, which is typical. But because the victim is the archdiocese, this condition is a bit unusual, according to Orf’s attorney, Joe Harvath. Prosecutors asked for the condition, Harvath said. Ed Magee, a spokesman for St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch’s office, said: “It would prevent him from stepping foot on any properties of the archdiocese, and he can’t be involved with any organization of the archdiocese. He can’t go in there and run an athletic association” of a parish. Harvath said Wednesday that he didn’t know if Orf remained a practicing Catholic. Orf could not be reached for comment. The pastor at St. Rose, the Rev. Tom Wyrsch, said he didn’t know about that condition barring Orf from contact with the archdiocese. “I would hope he would attend the church that is most convenient for him,” Wyrsch said. Wyrsch said St. Rose parishioners had been praying for Orf. “I don’t see any lingering bitterness,” Wyrsch said. Wyrsch said none of the athletic services had to be limited because of the thefts. “The funds were built back up,” he said. Magee said Orf must repay $16,700. So far, he’s paid $750, Magee said. Orf lived in Florissant when he was charged. Mark Lawrence, who works in the internal audit department for the archdiocese, represented St. Rose church in court last week when he read a victim- impact statement at Orf’s sentencing. Lawrence said the athletics were funded by fees paid by parents and fund- raisers run by volunteers, and the stolen money had been raised by volunteers. “It is really not a loss of money, it is a loss of hundreds of hours of work by par ish volunteers,” Lawrence said. “Portions of athletic fees and pr oceeds from fundraisers were saved by the athletic ministry little by little, month by month, and y ear by year to purchase new equipment, and uniforms for the children that has been lost.” Kim Bell 314-340-8115 @kbellpd on Twitter kbell@post-dispatch.com Sentence bars parish thief from Archdiocese Orf BY CHRISTINE BYERS s t. Louis Post- ispatch ST. LOUIS A uniformed guard greets students as they enter Gateway Middle School just northwest of downtown. Students pass a “Black Lives Matter” poster in the hallway leading to the library, where, on Wednesday, about a half dozen uniformed city police officers met with about 20 of them. For about an hour, they stared at each other, talked a little trash and tried to outmaneuver one another — over the checkered patterns of portable chess boards. The scene will play out at least once a week for the rest of the school year at Gateway as well as at Kennard and Stix elementary schools as part of the newly launched CHESS Cops program, or Cops Helping Enhance Student Skills. The plan is to recruit more officers to serve as chess instructors to work with students at the public schools in the districts they patrol, according to organizers with the Chess Club and Scholastic Center. The group already has instructors at 29 St. Louis public schools, but training officers to become instructors offers an added bonus to teaching children the strategy, focus and patience that come with the game, said Rex Sinquefield, founder of the Chess Club. “It’s a great way for them to see police officers in a different setting where there is no antagonism and where the stress is over the chess board,” Sinquefield said, as he watched the students challenge the officers. “Every decision has a consequence. Little moves now can mean a lot down the road, just like how the little things you do now in life can turn out to be important later in life.” Sinquefield is one of the biggest supporters of the nonprofit St. Louis Police Foundation. The nonprofit tapped Lt. Perri Johnson, commander of the city police department’s juvenile division, who then asked officers to volunteer. So far, eight officers have been through two days of training to become instructors. “There are a lot of frustrated officers out there right now, frustrated at the negative actions of other officers, so they’re seeking opportunities to show kids, ‘I can dispel what you’re seeing every week, that’s not me, that’s not how I am,’” Johnson said. “It’s giving the officers a platform to rewrite the story.” Pat Burton, the chess club’s faculty sponsor at Gateway, said she had seen how the game can transform students. “Through chess, I’ve seen better test scores and academics because you have to concentrate and remember information,” she said. “And this is a nice community connection because so often middle school is where preconceived notions about police begin. Instead of, ‘Oh, that’s the man with a gun,’ they’ll think, ‘That’s the guy I played chess with.’” Christian Watkins, 14, watched as his fellow chess enthusiast and Ragin’ Rook team member John Selvy, 14, played Lt. John Green. Usually, Green spends his days overseeing the city’s homicide division. Those joining him included Detective Matthew Manley, a member of the department’s Special Operations Unit, and Officer Nate McCraw of the Child Abuse division. “People usually describe police officers as bad and that they hurt people, so it’s good to connect with the people that help us,” Christian said. Chief Sam Dotson said the chess program rounded out his department’s youth-oriented community policing programs, which include the Police Athletic League. “This gives them a chance to sit down at a table and look at a cop in the eyes and understand and communicate. What better way to make inroads?” Dotson said. Green said he didn’t wear his uniform to his first session with students Tuesday. “They didn’t know I was a cop, and when I told them I was, a few took some deep breaths,” said Green, who said he was worried he would lose the connection with the students. “But I was shocked, I gave a quiz at the end, and they did great,” Green said. Christine Byers 314-340-8087 @christinedbyers on Twitter cbyers@post-dispatch.com Program’s endgame connects students with city police o cers CHRISTINE BYERS Post- ispatch “Having them here brings more of a challenge to me, I want to be able to beat them,” said Jason Pulliam, 12, as he ponders his next move while St. Louis police Detective Matthew Manley looks on at Gateway Middle School on Wednesday. Tucker ST. CHARLES > Council rejects annexing site of planned subdivision The St. Charles City Council rejected on a 4-4 vote Tuesday night annexing the site of a proposed subdivision near the Pearl Ridge Estates neighborhood, where a flooding problem had spurred a decade of political and court squabbling before it was fixed. Some residents had fought the plan for months, citing traffic and drainage issues. They also complained that the annexation and the subdivision were proposed by Pearl Ridge Estates developer Easton Wade’s son- in-law, Gordon Wischmeyer. Wade says he isn’t involved. Wade and the city fought for years over who was responsible for the design that led to Pearl Ridge’s chronic flooding. In 2012, the city completed a $1.8 million engineering fix to solve the problem. Regarding the current proposal, Wischmeyer could instead seek approval from St. Charles County officials for his 16-home project at the unincorporated site or wait a year and resubmit the annexation proposal to the city. (Mark Schlinkmann) LADUE > City to end yard waste composting Citing limited use by residents and increasing costs, the Ladue City Council eliminated on Tuesday the city’s yard waste composting program for leaves and brush. However, Mayor Nancy Spewak emphasized that the curbside leaf collection program would continue unchanged. Anne Lamitola, public works director, told the council that the city would save up to an estimated $79,250 annually by eliminating the composting program. She said that last year the composting program served only 13 percent of residents. And elimination of the program would mean the city wouldn’t need to spend $485,000 next year to buy a new mulch-handling windrow turner to replace a 24-year-old machine. (Special to the Post-Dispatch) DIGEST NOWIN PROGRESS! entirestock ...ofallpermanentlyreduced merchandisethroughout thestore. takean extra 40 % off

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