An off-duty St. Louis County police officer shot and killed a 20-year-old black man last Saturday after the man broke into the officer’s home in the wake of an online argument about Black Lives Matter.
Tyler Gebhard – a former football standout from Affton High School – made Facebook threats to the officer’s family and “uninvolved members of the community” after an argument erupted between the two men over the Black Lives Matter movement, according to local authorities and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Gebhard arrived at the officer’s home shortly before 6 p.m. and, when the officer’s wife would not let him past the front door, threw a 50-pound planter through the back door window. Gebhard entered the residence as the officer’s wife, mother-in-law, and two young children tried to escape, St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said.
(2/2) The suspect, who was known to the family, demanded entry & threw a planter through a glass door. pic.twitter.com/dnDmNRmgEZ
— St. Louis County PD (@stlcountypd) July 10, 2016
The officer’s family told police they heard the officer tell Gebhard to “get down, get down, get down,” and then heard several shots fired, Belmar said. Gebhard died of two gunshot wounds to the chest.
“I don’t think the officer had a choice — I honestly don’t,” Belmar told reporters on Saturday evening, labeling the situation “a very difficult position to be in.”
Local authorities have yet to release the exact content of the threats, but St. Louis County police Officer Benjamin Granda told the Post-Dispatch that “(The Facebook posts are) erratic, sporadic, and some are very threatening and menacing. They’re all over the place. It puts on display the type of mental and/or emotional crisis he was going through.”
Authorities and Gebhard’s family attribute his actions to mental health issues, specifically bi-polar disorder, for which he was taking medication. “He had a lot of mental problems the last few months,” Patrick Brogan, Gebhard’s uncle, told the Post-Dispatch. “A lot of difficulties in life.”
Gebhard’s family also confirmed with police that he suffered from schizophrenia and that he had a history of not taking his medications. “He was like a normal 20-year-old, (the family) had to stay on him to take his medication,” Brogan said.
“From conversations with the family through ongoing investigation, this is all abnormal behavior for Tyler,” Granda said.
Though Brogan said his nephew never participated in a Black Lives Matter protest, he did support the movement. The Post-Dispatch reports that some of Gebhard’s posts “devolve into heated arguments and warnings of a ‘race war,’” while other posts are “conciliatory, calling for black and white people to come together.”
One thread, in which many of the comments had been deleted, ends with Gebhard saying, “Look man you better leave me alone or imma come looking for yoy [sic].” It is unclear to whom this comment was directed, though it was made the Friday morning before the incident.