The mother of a man who was found dead in a Missouri home wants answers after a photo of a police officer at the crime scene giving what may be construed as an inappropriate gesture leaked.
Kim Staton’s son Omar Rahman, 28, was found dead in a Pine Lawn home on Aug. 8 from an accidental overdose, KMOV reports. Staton has had little contact with the North County Police Cooperative since his death, but after the news station shared the following photo of Rahman’s crime scene, she is demanding answers.
The photo reportedly shows Rahman’s dead body, and a glove-wearing police officer holding his arm while giving a thumbs up.
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“In your mind, is there any reasonable explanation for what that officer was doing?” investigative reporter Lauren Trager asked Staton.
“No,” she replied. "Because when they come to a call, they're supposed to be there to help and protect, not doing what he was doing with thumbs up and a smirk on his face."
Staton’s attorney Antonio Romanucci called the photo “hideous.”
“The implications of this photograph are just astronomical,” he said.
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“I have seen thousands and thousands of forensic photographs," Romanucci continued. "I have never seen a staged photograph of an officer next to a deceased body."
Romanucci is calling for an investigation into the incident by an agency outside of the police department.
“Who was there that allowed this to go on?" he questioned. "Was there any Sergeant involved? Those are the questions that need to be asked and that's what needs to be found here."
How the photo was leaked is unclear, but police did tell Staton that the official crime scene camera had gone missing for a period of time and that pictures also disappeared.
"Had you not received that photograph we wouldn’t know this,” Romanucci said. "We would never have known this."
NCPC Chief Tim Swope said an internal and external investigation into “the totality” of the situation are ongoing.
Swope has repeatedly refused to look at the photo, according to KMOV.
Former St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom offered his opinion on the photograph.
“I don't know why he's raising his thumb in the air," Isom said. "I don't know what he's doing at that point. I can't explain why you would be doing that in the photo, but certainly there are reasons why a person might turn a body over, view it, for signs of trauma."
Isom noted that if the department does not know how the photo was released, then that is a problem.
“The fact that the photo is out is just problematic," he said. "So, even if you can't determine the intentions of the officer, which by the photo, look questionable, you certainly are distressed and concerned that it's out in the public."
A lawsuit against NCPC is being considered.
“I think we should be investigating this together,” Romanucci said. "I think the public needs to know about this."
“I'm looking for some answers,” Staton said.
A lawyer representing NCPC sent KMOV a threatening letter regarding its report of the photograph, claiming it is “stolen property.”
"NCPC does not believe it is appropriate to comment on a matter related to 2 open criminal investigations,” the letter states.
The NCPC is a “positive alternative to the status quo in policing,” according to its website. As a co-op, the department is focused on community partnership, which succeeds only because of a "strong bond between the police and the citizens” they serve. The functions of the co-op include patrol, criminal investigations, crime scene, drug enforcement, K-9, traffic enforcement and community partnership.