ST. LOUIS ― Marlene Gebhard, grandmother of slain 20-year-old Tyler Gebhard, says the past four months have shaken her beliefs about law enforcement, and her days are divided by what she knows and the mystery surrounding the details of her grandson’s death.
“After Tyler was killed, a part of me still trusted the system,” Gebhard said at a press conference Thursday afternoon. “I wanted to believe that it would happen. That they would do it right. I no longer trust and I no longer believe.”
Tyler Gebhard, a former Southeast Missouri University football player, was fatally shot on July 9 by off-duty St. Louis County Police Officer Joshua Lasley in Affton, Missouri. The shooting occurred inside the home of Lasley’s in-laws, Rich and Julie Boyd, who were also Tyler Gebhard’s friends ― a narrative many news outlets overlooked.
Four months later, the family says, they still haven’t received an autopsy report or investigation report.
Gebhard’s family and the nonprofit law group Arch City Defenders held a press conference Thursday afternoon asking for answers from law enforcement and the St. Louis County medical examiner’s office about what happened to Gebhard the day he died.
At 5:58 p.m. on July 9, Gebhard was pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to an EMS report obtained by Arch City. By 6 p.m., St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar appeared on a local news station to say a shooting had occurred after a suspect broke into a police officer’s home.
“I don’t think the officer had a choice, I honestly don’t,” Belmar said at a press conference.
“It was almost as if a full investigation had been wrapped up and a conclusion was reached in less than an hour,” Marlene Gebhard said Thursday.
Local media quickly published stories about the shooting, mostly recounting statements only from law enforcement.
Meanwhile, Gebhard’s mother, Angela Johnson, did not find out her son was dead until 9:30 p.m. on July 9.
Johnson says when two police officers came to her house to inform her of the news, they told her she didn’t have to go identify her son’s body because “the shooter” already had. Johnson didn’t see her son until two days later, when his body was transferred from the medical examiner’s office to the funeral home.
St. Louis County Police never interviewed any of Tyler Gebhard’s family regarding his death.
How Media Got It Wrong
Arch City and Gebhard’s family say several things were reported inaccurately in original news reports, including the number of times he was shot. Reports initially said he was shot twice. But the family and Arch City say hospital records released to to them show Tyler Gebhard was shot three times, twice in the chest and once in the neck.
Some news outlets reported Gebhard was schizophrenic; his family says he was not, and was in fact diagnosed with bipolar disorder in April 2015. According to his family, Gebhard had two episodes, neither of which manifested in violence.
Despite headlines after his death, Gebhard was not a member of Black Lives Matter, nor did he participate in protests, family members say. However, Gebhard’s family says he was passionate about social justice and “feared for his life” because of the police-involved shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castilo that happened just days before he was killed.
Larry Gebhard, Tyler’s grandfather, said what makes grieving his first grandson’s death “such a bitter pill to swallow” is that Gebhard was killed inside a home with people he considered friends. “It’s like Tyler’s life didn’t matter enough to warrant [an investigation]. Just another black kid,” Gebhard said at the press conference. “Yet the attention surrounding the death of the officer who was killed in the same area recently was overwhelming.”
The Boyds could not be reached for comment.
Officer Blake Snyder was fatally shot on Oct. 6 by an 18-year-old suspect after responding to a 911 disturbance call. Snyder died immediately and the suspect was arrested with bail set for $1 million. Snyder on Wednesday was honored on the floor of Congress by Illinois State Rep. Rodney Davis (R). Snyder’s death rocked the region, and his large funeral procession was attended by hundreds and shut down highways. Larry Gebhard says it’s hard for him to drive through Affton and see the blue ribbons still hanging everywhere for Snyder while his family hasn’t even received investigation details into his grandson’s death.
“All we heard was a one-sided account,” he said.
A statement from St. Louis County PD on July 10 says Tyler Gebhard allegedly threw a concrete planter through the window of the Boyds’ home as Lasley’s family, including young children, barricaded themselves in a room. The police statement alleged Tyler had made a series of threats, including on social media, in the days and hours leading up to the incident, and Lasley feared for his life and the lives of the others in the home.
Arch City and Gebhard’s family say they have no evidence of any of the threats toward the Boyd family mentioned by police. Rich Boyd was Gebhard’s youth pastor at Sanctuary Fellowship Church in Affton. On July 7, Gebhard had exchanged friendly messages with Julie Boyd in which she urged him, “come see us,” the family said at the press conference Thursday. They said Tyler Gebhard was supposed to go to church with the Boyds on July 9, and that GPS tracking on his phone placed him in the Boyds’ home on July 8.
The Gebhard family says that when Lasley became a police officer in 2013 he celebrated at a restaurant with the Boyds and Tyler. They add that numerous Facebook photos dating back to 2012, confirm the close relationship he shared with the family.
Gebhard’s family described him as big-hearted and selfless.
“If I could ask for anything today, I would want for local law enforcement to be transparent to my family and other families who feel similarly powerless,” Angela Johnson said. “Families like mine, who will never have the chance because of the relentless violence against men of color in our community and in our country.”
Records Request Shuffle
The family and attorneys have requested key documents pertaining to Gebhard’s death from the St. Louis County Police Department, St. Louis County medical examiner’s office, Lakeshire Police Department and the Affton Fire Protection District. So far, only the the ambulance report, fire district report and encounter report have been provided by St. Anthony’s Medical Center and Affton Fire Protection District.
In August, St. Louis County PD said they were done with the investigation. But when Arch City filed a records request, the department said Lakeshire PD was investigating. After another records request, Lakeshire PD said St. Louis County was handling the investigation. Arch City contacted the St. Louis County Counselor’s office on Oct. 27 for clarification and has not received a response.
A spokesman from St. Louis County PD told The Huffington Post the investigation was concluded and had been forwarded to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney’s office for their review, and that the autopsy was concluded the day following the incident.
The St. Louis County prosecutor attorney’s office says the case has been presented to its office and is being reviewed.
“We are still awaiting the final/completed autopsy report,” Ed Magee, executive assistant at the office, said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “As with all cases still being reviewed/under investigation, the investigative reports and autopsy reports cannot be released to anyone, including family. No one from the Gebhard family has made contact with this office.”
“When the investigation is completed, if no charges are filed, the reports will be available and the next of kin advised of the results.”
The St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office told HuffPost on Monday that its report cannot be released yet, because the case is still under investigation.
Gebhard’s family says their life insurance company still hasn’t paid out Tyler’s policy because the family still doesn’t have a death certificate.
St. Louis County PD has a controversial past with lack of community policing. A report commissioned by the Department of Justice said the police department is focused too much on police militarization and SWAT tactics. The county medical examiner has also made controversial decisions; in June, it changed a statement regarding an inmate’s death at the county jail to be more conducive to a corrections officer’s account.
Over 800 people have been killed by police this year, according to a Washington Post police shooting database.
“Too often, because of the high number of police shootings, families have often buried their loved ones before an investigation has even begun,” Thomas Harvey, co-founder of Arch City told media.
The Gebhards say they do not want to file a lawsuit yet, but just want answers.
Lasley is currently an active duty police officer. He returned back to work eight days after killing Gebhard.
This article has been updated with a response from the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office.