A leaked photo showing a police officer in St. Louis smiling and giving a thumbs-up while holding the hand of a man who died in an accidental drug overdose has upset the dead man's family.
“I really don't know, actually, what really happened to my son,” Kim Stanton, the dead man’s mother, told local station KMOV, adding that she hasn’t heard much from the police since her son’s death.
Twenty-eight-year-old Omar Rahman was found dead in a home in north-west St. Louis on August 8. A time stamp located on the bottom right of the leaked photo is also dated “08/08/2016.”
Stanton said she could think of no reasonable explanation for the photograph.
“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," she said.
The photo was given to Lauren Trager, an investigative reporter with KMOV, by a member of the law enforcement community who requested anonymity.
North St. Louis County Police Cooperative Chief Tim Swop refused to grant KMOV an on-camera interview, and refused repeated offers by the news station to view the photo.
A lawyer for the North County Police Cooperative (NCPC) sent a letter to KMOV, informing the station that they “refused to provide comment to someone who has been told she was in possession of stolen property."
“If KMOV is unwilling to cooperate with the NCPC, it may have no other choice to pursue other enforcement remedies available to it,” the letter warned.
The NCPC also said that they have an open investigation into the “underlying case” and the photo.
“The fact that the photo is out is just problematic, 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,” former St. Louis Police Chief Dan Isom told KMOV .
The leaked photo from St. Louis has drawn comparisons online of the infamous Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse photos that were released by CBS News in 2004.
Those photos showed numerous US Army officers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, posing with their thumb-up while detainees were shown wounded, tortured, or forced into humiliating and sexual positions while naked.