Prosecutor backs comments calling slain men 'bums'

Monday, October 8, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis County's prosecutor stands behind his comments describing as "bums" two men fatally shot by a police officer and federal drug agent last year outside a restaurant.

Robert McCulloch offered the characterization Wednesday, when a U.S. attorney said federal investigators lack sufficient evidence to charge the police officer and Drug Enforcement Administration agent with civil rights violations in the deaths of the drug suspect and his friend.

Now criticized by some lawyers over his choice of words, McCulloch said he doesn't regret them.

"The print media and self-anointed activists have been portraying the two gentlemen as folk heroes and have been vilifying the police," McCulloch told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I think it is important for the public to know that these two and others like them for years have spread destruction in the community dealing crack cocaine and heroin."

"The entire tragedy could have been avoided" if Earl Murray -- the suspect -- had surrendered, McCulloch said. Murray and a passenger , Ronald Beasley, were shot to death during an attempted drug arrest at a Jack in the Box restaurant in June 2000.

Report clears police

On Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Raymond Gruender publicly presented results of a yearlong investigation that said it uncovered nothing to prove beyond a reasonable doubt DEA agent Keith Kierzkowski and St. Louis County police drug task force Detective Robert Piekutowski "fired with a bad purpose."

Gruender said the two officers were among 13 federal and local authorities who planned to arrest Murray, seen twice previously selling crack cocaine to an undercover informant the day of the shooting on the Berkeley eatery's lot. Shortly after arriving at the restaurant, the officers trapped Murray's car between two Ford Explorers, Gruender said. The officers got out of the sport utility vehicle in front of Murray's car and told the occupants they were under arrest.

Separated by 10 feet from Murray's car, both men told investigators they fired at Murray, in fear for their lives, when they thought he began to pull forward and drive at them.

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