A police officer was fatally shot. His ‘last moments’ were live-streamed on Facebook.
The police officer was lying face down on the ground when the man standing over him pointed a gun at the back of his head and fired a single shot.
Kashina Harper, a clerk at the St. Louis-area store where Sunday’s fatal shooting happened, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch she was one of the first people to reach North County Police Cooperative Officer Michael Langsdorf and grabbed his radio to call for help.
“I’m the one who tried to save that man,” the 34-year-old said Monday. “I went to his walkie-talkie. I said, ‘A police is down. Somebody shot him. 6250 Page. Can you please hurry up?’"
Then, as more people started to gather around Langsdorf, Harper pulled out her phone and hit record, broadcasting the shooting’s chaotic aftermath in a Facebook live stream.
The roughly three-minute clip, which authorities said Monday captured Langsdorf’s “last moments,” has sparked intense outcry, once again raising critical questions about whether it’s appropriate to share graphic images and video on social media and what those platforms are doing to control the spread of such content. In interviews with local media, Harper, who declined to comment to The Washington Post, said she has been inundated with death threats for posting the live stream. The Post-Dispatch also came under fire for linking to Harper’s video in an article about the shooting and issued an apology Monday for a “serious error in judgment.”
As of early Tuesday, the live stream appeared to have been taken off Harper’s Facebook account, but it continues to pop up on Twitter and YouTube. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment late Monday.
“I don’t know why I went to Facebook. I don’t know,” a tearful Harper told the Post-Dispatch. “I regret it. I didn’t know the officer was going to die.”
At around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Langsdorf, a 40-year-old father of two and veteran police officer, got a call about a person trying to cash a bad check at Clay’s Wellston Food Market Restaurant located just northwest of downtown St. Louis, Maj. Ron Martin with the police cooperative said during a news conference Monday.
Upon arrival, Langsdorf confronted a man later identified as 26-year-old Bonette Kymbrelle Meeks, a violent “multi-convicted felon” with an “extensive criminal history” in North Carolina, Martin said. Authorities announced Monday that Meeks had been charged with first-degree murder, armed criminal action, unlawful possession of a firearm and resisting arrest. He remains in custody without bond and it is unclear if he has an attorney.
When Sunday’s encounter between Langsdorf and Meeks turned physical, both men ended up on the floor of the store, Martin said, noting that surveillance cameras captured the struggle. In the video, Langsdorf appeared to have the upper hand until Meeks managed to pull a gun from his own waistband, Martin said. Meeks then allegedly struck Langsdorf on the side of his head with the gun, dazing the officer and causing him to “lose his hold,” Martin said.
As Martin described how Meeks allegedly stood over Langsdorf and pointed the gun at the officer’s head, he grew emotional.
“Mr. Meeks was successful in executing a cop yesterday, and a good one,” Martin said, choking back tears.
The bullet entered the left, rear side of Langsdorf’s neck, ricocheted off his spinal cord and exited from his chest, Martin said. After the shooting, he said Meeks fled the scene with the gun and was apprehended by other officers. In an interview with police, Meeks “confessed to murdering Officer Langsdorf,” Martin said.
Meanwhile, Harper, the clerk, and other people in the store rushed to help Langsdorf. Harper’s video showed a frenzied scene as one woman knelt by the officer, clutching his radio.
“Don’t touch him,” someone off-camera shouted.
“Come on hurry up, please hurry up. We got a police down,” Harper yelled in the clip, adding, “Oh my God, I’m shaking.”
Harper and two other women clustered around Langsdorf, telling him not to move and holding his hand until officers arrived on scene. The video briefly showed people in uniform performing CPR before Harper said, “Oh my God, I can’t even record this” and abruptly ended the live stream.
Langsdorf was taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m. Sunday, Martin said.
“You never would have thought that this type of police officer would have been put in that position, but it happened,” Martin said. “There’s no such thing as a routine call.”
Though Langsdorf had only been in his current role for three months, he spent 17 years with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, KMOV reported.
“It was in his blood,” said Martin, who knew Langsdorf for 20 years and regarded him as a friend. “He wanted to help people.”
North County Police Cooperative Chief John Buchannan described Langsdorf as an “outstanding officer.”
“When we first met he said to me, several times, ‘All I wanted to be was a police officer and do police work. It was really all I knew how to do,’” Buchannan said.
Following the shooting, Harper was widely vilified for sharing the live stream.
“He was at work and lost his life, and people think I put it on Facebook for attention,” Harper told KMOV.
Several Facebook users called for people to report the video so that it would be taken down. Harper’s profile was flooded with commenters calling her “heartless” and an “evil person,” and threatening her.
“Going live with the video was not helping him at all,” a person wrote.
People were also quick to criticize the Post-Dispatch for including a link to the video in its online coverage of the shooting.
“Horrific!” one person commented. “Insensitive and a total disregard for human life and disrespectful to the deceased and his family.”
In an apology on Monday, the newspaper wrote that it had made a “major mistake in covering a tragedy."
“The Post-Dispatch embraces ethical standards set by the Society of Professional Journalists, which include to ‘minimize harm’ and ‘show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage,’” the statement said. “Linking to that Facebook Live video violated those standards.”
Our newspaper apologizes to the Langsdorf family, members of law enforcement and our readers for making a major mistake in covering a tragedy. https://t.co/ptrNf7dBnE
During Monday’s news conference, Martin addressed the live stream, telling reporters, “I believe we’ve done our due diligence in removing that from Facebook.” In March, after the gunman allegedly responsible for the New Zealand mosque attacks live-streamed the shooting, Facebook said it would reexamine how it reacts to live and recently aired videos with the goal of alerting first responders to an emergency as quickly as possible, The Post’s Hamza Shaban reported.
“I don’t think it exists out there anymore,” Martin said of Harper’s video. He added that the store clerk had been “very cooperative” with investigators.
Harper maintains that she had only been trying to help. She told KMOV that she shared the video because she wanted Langsdorf “to get justice,” and for the person who shot him to “know what he did and how much pain he put this man through.”
“That’s the only reason why,” she said. “It wasn’t to get no likes on Facebook. I’m not that type of person.”