Officer charged in 2020 death of Moline Acres sergeant hit, killed during police chase

“Some facts show closer calls, but this was not close”
News 4's Gabriela Vidal looked into the charges filed nearly two years after a Moline Acres Police Sergeant's death.
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 8:05 AM CDT
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KMOV) - Nearly two years later, a former police officer who allegedly struck and killed a Moline Acres officer with his squad car during a pursuit has been charged, the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney’s office announced.

Brian Rayford, 41, of Florissant, is facing a manslaughter charge in connection to the death of Sgt. Herschel Turner. He turned himself in around 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

Police said Turner was helping Rayford, a former Bellefontaine Neighbors police officer, with a traffic stop on Chambers Road near Lance Drive on Dec. 5, 2020, in the westbound lanes when the Bellfontaine Neighbors officer noticed a 2015 Nissan Sentra with Missouri plates TB4L1Z that had been reported stolen earlier near Dellwood. Rayford tried to stop the Nissan but the driver didn’t stop. In a press release, prosecutors said Rayford sparked the chase although there wasn’t any “reasonable evidence that the need to immediately apprehend the driver of the vehicle outweighed the level of danger to the public created by his pursuit.”

The 41-year-old reportedly was speeding about 80 - 85 mph without emergency lights or sirens activated. Turner, a 22-year veteran of the department, was outside the squad car at the time and went to the other side of his squad car to get out of the way.

“The Bellefontaine Neighbors patrol car that originally attempted to stop the stolen car, approached the crash scene and went off the right side of the roadway to avoid the crash and struck Sergeant Turner,” officials said.

The suspects driving the Nissan crashed and abandoned the car near Chambers just west of Lewis and Clark Boulevard. Turner was taken to a hospital with serious injuries but later died.

“We understand being an officer is a very tough job. When initiating a high-speed pursuit of a vehicle, police officers need to make sound decisions that responsibly balance the danger that their pursuit will cause against the threat an offender potentially poses to the community. Some facts show closer calls, but this was not close,” said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell. “We believe the evidence shows that this officer did not make sound decisions and, tragically, that caused the death of a police sergeant who was just doing his job.”

Rayford currently works at the Hillsdale Police Department, News 4 discovered. In response, Rayford’s attorney Travis Noble said Rayford accidentally hit Turner.

“They thought he violated policy by not having his lights and sirens activated which wasn’t the case, even if he was in pursuit with lights and sirens nothing would’ve been different,” Noble said. “He came over the hill tried to avoid the crash, went to the right ended up in the yard, and accidentally hit the police officer. "

In 2020, News 4 spoke to Turner’s sister Talisa days after his death. She said her brother always offered to help the community even off the clock.

“I think he loved his job more than life itself, he left doing what he loved. He was on time, never missed a day at work,” she said previously. “My heart is still empty. It’s shattered completely. I miss him, a lot, and I just would do anything to have him back right now.”

He mentored children and would spend his off hours helping strangers in need of assistance.

“He did his police work at night. During the day he would do his own roadside assistance helping people who were stranded or needed help with their cars,” she said. “He was always helping somebody even when he wasn’t being a police officer.”

He was also dedicated to his family. When Talisa had heart problems, it was her brother who took care of her, driving her to her appointments and being by her side.

“Now I just feel like I am alone and lost,” she said. “I just wish I could have been there to help him as he helped me but I know I couldn’t.”

Turner was a father and also leaves behind a wife, children, and six siblings. His death comes just weeks before Christmas.

“I don’t even- there’s nothing to celebrate. Really nothing to celebrate about,” Talisa said. “I don’t even know how to begin to have a holiday. I thank God that he was here and I’m going to try my best, but I’m so broken and torn I don’t even know what tomorrow is going to bring for me right now.”