Dash and body cam video shows former Velda City cops shooting at fleeing car
Video footage released this week shows two former Velda City police officers opening fire on a driver who was fleeing a traffic stop in 2020.
The shooting led to a rare instance of police officers being criminally prosecuted for on-duty shootings. The officers, 36-year-old Matthew Schanz and 41-year-old Christopher Gage, both pleaded guilty to felonies and were placed on probation.
Former Velda officers Matthew Shantz and Christopher Gage have both pleaded guilty to felonies and admitted shooting into a fleeing vehicle in February 2020. The driver inside was shot in the chest but survived.
The driver, Antoine Algee, was shot twice in the chest but survived.
St. Louis County police investigated the shooting and released the body and dashboard camera videos to the Post-Dispatch on Tuesday in response to a public records request.
The footage begins when Schanz — a former St. Louis police officer with a history of criminal charges and misconduct — stops Algee near West Florissant and Octavia avenues in Flordell Hills in February 2020.
Prosecutors said later that officers reported smelling marijuana in the car, though it isn’t clearly visible in the video.
“I just got pulled over in the city,” Algee tells the officers. He rifles through papers in a glove box, and a woman in the passenger’s seat hands the officer a paper. Schanz tells Algee that the temporary tag on the car doesn’t match the vehicle.
“Is there anything illegal in the vehicle?” Schanz asks.
“No, sir,” Algee says.
“So there’s no marijuana?” Schanz says.
“Nah, nothing like that,” Algee says.
“’Cause here’s the deal,” says Gage, the other officer. “If I find weed in this car, you guys are both going to (expletive) jail.”
“Damn, a little piece of weed?” Algee replies.
Gage later says: “We don’t need probable cause. We’re going to search this car regardless.”
Schanz asks Algee and the woman to step out of the car, and Schanz starts to handcuff the woman. Algee opens his door but remains behind the wheel, visibly agitated and yelling.
A few seconds later, he pulls away as Gage stands next to the driver’s side door.
“Go after the car!” Schanz yells to Gage.
Algee comes to a dead-end street, turns around and heads back toward the officers.
“He’s coming back this way!” Schanz yells. He calls for backup over a police radio and says Algee “just tried running us over.”
Schanz then walks to the middle of the street and points his gun at the oncoming car yelling for it to stop, the video shows.
Algee doesn’t stop, and Schanz opens fire.
The vehicle then swerves around the officer, and Schanz continues to shoot as the car drives away. Gage also fires a few shots at the car.
Prosecutors said Schanz fired at least nine times in all.
“Shots fired!” Schanz yells in the video before getting into his patrol car and following Algee, who slows to a stop about a minute later, bumping into the back of a parked car.
Officers yell for him to exit the car, and when they approach, he can be seen on video bleeding and holding his side as sirens blare.
“Get out!” Schanz yells.
“I’m shot,” Algee says quietly.
Schanz pulls him from the car and places him on his knees.
“I’m shot, man, damn!” Algee yells.
Velda City police Chief Daniel Paulino, then on the scene, tells Algee to calm down.
Within a few minutes, Algee is taken away in an ambulance.
Chief Paulino asks Schanz what happened and tells him to step back from the crime scene.
“The officers violated department policy and the law,” Chief Paulino said in a written statement Wednesday. He said he asked St. Louis County police to assign an investigator for “complete transparency and a thorough independent investigation.”
“No matter my personal opinion, I support our legal system.”
Officers face charges
About five months after the shooting, St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell announced first-degree assault charges against both Schanz and Gage.
“Using deadly force in a situation like this is not legal or justified,” Bell said in a news conference outside the St. Louis County Justice Center.
St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell announced on Friday that two Velda City police officers, Christopher Gage and Matthew Schanz, are being charged with first-degree assault and armed criminal action for a traffic stop that resulted in officers opening fire on February 25, 2020.
Schanz, who happened to be outside the jail to turn himself in, interrupted Bell’s news conference, telling reporters he was “yelling, screaming” for the vehicle to stop and was scared for his life before he fired.
“We are trained to neutralize that threat, and that’s exactly what we were trying to do,” he said. He said he was “not trained to turn around and run away,” when asked why he didn’t step out of the vehicle’s path.
Schanz ultimately pleaded guilty in September to felony second-degree assault and was placed on five years probation. As part of the plea deal, St. Louis County prosecutors reduced the charge from first-degree assault and dropped a second count of armed criminal action.
Schanz’s partner, Gage, pleaded guilty to armed criminal action and felony unlawful use of a weapon late last year and was placed on three years probation.
Both Gage and Schanz agreed to surrender their police licenses and not take jobs in security or law enforcement during their probation.