As national outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota by police officers continues, community leaders are shining a light on what they see as a similar case here in Missouri.
Sen. Karla May and Rep. Steve Roberts, along with Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr., renewed their pleas for justice in the 2017 death of Tory Sanders Friday.
Sanders, who was from Tennessee, was traveling across Missouri when his car ran out of gas in Mississippi County. He was taken to jail by police where a mental health counselor concluded he should be hospitalized — yet Sanders remained in custody. While in custody, Sheriff Cory Hutcheson held him to the ground with his knee pressed against Sanders’ neck, despite being told to remove pressure, according to a civil suit filed by the family in 2018.
Sanders died shortly thereafter from his injuries.
Sanders’ death was a leading cause for the NAACP to issue a travel advisory for black motorists traveling across Missouri, which remains in effect.
“In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, we have renewed our call for justice for Tory Sanders,” Chapel said. “We have come together today to request justice in the form of a prosecution in the Tory Sanders murder.”
Since Sanders’ death, no legal action has been taken against the officers involved. Former Attorney General Josh Hawley had investigated the death during his time in office.
“As Attorney General, Senator Hawley went to court to have the sheriff removed from office, stripped of his badge, charged with state and federal crimes, and sent to prison,” Kelli Ford, a spokesperson for Senator Hawley, told The Missouri Times. “Senator Hawley supports any further prosecutorial action the evidence will support.”
Eighteen charges were filed against Hutcheson by Hawley during his time as Attorney General in unrelated cases.
“I think that in light of what’s happening today in the protests, people who are a part of this system of injustice need to be prosecuted in this case,” said May. “We can’t sit and see the climate around our country and not police our own backyard. There is no reason why there should not be justice for Tory Sanders. We can’t sit and allow this unjust crime to not be solved, to go unpunished. This is an example of why African Americans are so frustrated.”
“This is a greater example of why we need systematic, legislative change,” Roberts said. “One of the reasons we have such a lack of confidence in local law enforcement is the police officers refuse to hold each other accountable. It was very unique in the current situation regarding George Floyd that you heard national police associations across the board saying ‘we see this video, we are law enforcement, and what happened here was wrong, this should have never happened.’ We need officers to hold themselves accountable.”
Last week, Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s Office released the annual vehicle stops report which showed a continuing disparity in the number of black motorists stopped by police in Missouri.
And a similar conference was held Monday with the Colilotion for Fair Policing, a group made up of legislators and leadership from various organizations, to discuss the report and the proposed Fourth Amendment Affirmation Act — which would require additional layers of accountability for police. Both were discussed in Friday’s conference as well.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lewis announced new accountability measures for the city’s police department Thursday. The city is also investing in body cameras for its officers, funded by community donors.
Protests continue around the country — including in Missouri — with calls to end racism and police brutality in the U.S.