A white man said two black males were suspects in a violent robbery. Then police watched the video.
The news report came out a day and a half after the attempted robbery and shooting last summer.
Two men, ages 24 and 22, had attacked another man in the early hours of Aug. 26 in St. Louis, police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . One of the purported suspects, who were not named in the article, was seen hiding a gun in a flowerpot; another had gunshot wounds, the newspaper reported.
The police had said the man they believed to be the victim had pulled out a gun and shot one of the assailants, though he did not know where his gun was after the incident, according to the report.
“Man pulls gun, opens fire after he's attacked in downtown St. Louis,” the newspaper headline read.
But this week, police charged the man they initially though was the victim as the perpetrator, nearly six months after the incident.
Patrick John Owens, 29, is charged with attempted robbery, armed criminal action and second-degree assault - all felonies - as well as a misdemeanor for making a false report, according to court documents in the case.
Officials said that the other two men, Christopher and Jerry Tate, now 25 and 23, are believed to be the victims of an attempted robbery and shooting. The brothers, who are black, told the Post-Dispatch this week that they believed race played a role in the time it took police to come to the conclusion that they were not the assailants but instead the victims.
Owens is white.
Susan Ryan, a spokeswoman for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly Gardner told The Washington Post that police had initially recommended that prosecutors charge the Tates for the crime. Gardner's office declined at the time because of “insufficient evidence,” Ryan said.
Ryan said she did not know whether Owens had been arrested yet.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not respond to questions about what accounted for the time it took to charge Owens.
The incident occurred at about 3 a.m. Owens initially told police that he had fired his gun at the attackers before they fled and then lost his gun in the exchange, the Post-Dispatch reported.
But according to court documents that cite the brothers' statements as well as video evidence, the Tates were approached by Owens, who asked them for a ride in their pickup, and then pulled out a gun and said, “Give me your wallet!”
The two men did not comply with the demand, and a struggle ensued, a probable cause statement filed in the case said. Owens fired his gun and hit Christopher Tate in the hand and face, according to the Post-Dispatch.
“I was on top of him when he shot me,” Christopher Tate told the newspaper. “When he fired the gun the bullet hit the bone in my hand. It went through my right jaw. If I had not put my hand out it probably would have blown my entire face off.”
The brothers were able to wrestle the gun away and flee, the court documents said.
Jerry Tate told the Post-Dispatch that some police officers on bikes they encountered “didn't listen to us at all.”
The Tates did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Jerry Tate was taken to jail but was released the next day without being charged. Christopher was transported to a hospital for treatment. Owens had been arrested after the incident too but released at the time, court documents said.
About five days after the incident, police obtained surveillance video from the area that corroborated the Tates' story. Ryan said that the Circuit Attorney's Office received the video from the police only this week.
Reached by phone Thursday, Owens told a reporter that he did not want to comment on the allegations against him.
“Not at the moment, and especially not for The Washington Post,” he said. His bail was set at $250,000, court records show.
The Tate brothers told the Post-Dispatch this week about the effect the suspicion had on their lives. Christopher said that his boss found out about the shooting after seeing it in the news.
“He asked me, ‘Why did the paper say you robbed someone and that's how you got shot?' “ Christopher told the newspaper. “He said, ‘If it wasn't true the paper wouldn't have said it.' “
The Post-Dispatch updated the story with a note on top saying that charges had been filed against the “alleged victim in this attack,” with a link to a new story.
Jerry Tate said that as the story became more clear, he was surprised when a prosecutor called to ask him if he wanted to press forward with the case.
“Why wouldn't we want them to prosecute him?” he said.
Robert Trim, a police detective with the St. Louis Police Department, wrote in a statement to the court that he was able to corroborate the brothers' statements through the surveillance video.
“It is now clear that the victims were telling the truth and that the defendant was lying to officers about what had happened,” Trim wrote.