A "hideous" photo of a St. Louis police officer is drawing comparisons to photos from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, reports BuzzFeed. Leaked to KMOV, it shows a smiling officer giving a thumbs-up as he holds the limp arm of 28-year-old Omar Rahman, a black man who died of an accidental drug overdose on Aug. 8, the same date the photo was taken. Rahman's mother, Kimberly Stanton, tells the Washington Post she wants all officers involved punished "because my child, he couldn't do anything. He was helpless. He was gone." Her attorney, who's seeking memory cards and police records regarding camera use, says he'll file a lawsuit within two weeks. The photo is "a blatant example of disregard for human life" and was racially motivated, he says. "I'm disgusted by it."
According to Chief Timothy Swope of the North St. Louis County Police Cooperative, the unidentified officer, who is white, was arranging Rahman's body to check for signs of trauma and "to do [a] proper crime scene investigation." While he "may have used very poor judgment" in giving a thumbs-up to the camera, "there's no malice there," Swope says. He also denies that the photo has anything to do with race, noting 60% of the police force and nine of 12 supervisors are black; an internal investigation is ongoing. In a letter sent to KMOV last week, a lawyer for the NCPC threatened to "pursue other enforcement remedies" if the station didn't return all copies of the "stolen" photo. KMOV, which says it received the photo from a law enforcement official, has refused.