Fatal crash survivor says St. Louis firefighter stole his wallet, debit card at accident scene
No charges have been filed, despite police video footage that shows the firefighter putting Robinson-Laney's wallet inside his coat
By Joe Holleman
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — Seven Robinson-Laney may have twice been a victim in the early hours of Feb. 26 – first by a hit-and-run driver who killed four of his friends in a crash, then by a St. Louis firefighter who has been questioned by police about a missing wallet and credit card.
Along with the wallet, Robinson-Laney said, hundreds of dollars in cash and two gift cards he received days earlier for his 18th birthday have never been found.
The north St. Louis resident questions why after more than a month after the wreck, no charges have been filed — even though St. Louis police had him look at video from the crash scene, recorded by a police camera, that shows the firefighter putting Robinson-Laney's wallet inside his coat.
"And he fits the description of what I gave them" shortly after the incident, he said.
Asked by the Post-Dispatch about the case, police said only that they have a person of interest.
The fatal crash occurred at about 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday at South Grand Boulevard and Forest Park Avenue. A driver traveling south on Grand ran a red light and struck the SUV in which Robinson-Laney was a passenger. The impact pushed the SUV over a guardrail and sent it plummeting to Forest Park Avenue below.
Killed were Anthony Robinson, 19, of Jennings; Richard Boyd, 19, of Sullivan; Bryanna Dentman-Johnson, 18, of Vinita Park; and Corntrail McKinley, 20, of St. Louis. Four others, including Robinson-Laney (no relation to Anthony Robinson) sustained injuries.
Three days after the crash, on March 3, Cedric Dixon, 34, of the 4800 block of Leduc Street in St. Louis, surrendered to police. He is being held without bond and has been charged with 17 felonies. His attorney, Raphael Morris, has been unavailable for comment.
'Someone's got my wallet'
In several interviews with the Post-Dispatch, Robinson-Laney shared his recollection of the events after the accident.
Robinson-Laney said he pulled himself out of the SUV and was on the pavement of Forest Park Avenue, and he recalled several bystanders coming up to offer assistance.
At some point, a man who Robinson-Laney thought was a police officer asked if he had any identification. Robinson-Laney pulled out his wallet — a Christmas gift from his grandmother that has his initials, "SMRL," on it — and handed it to the man.
The man took out a piece of ID, checked it and handed the ID back to him, Robinson-Laney said. But he did not return the wallet. Robinson-Laney said the man was wearing a dark or black jacket, not a large "turnout coat" that firefighters often wear. That led Robinson-Laney to think the man was a police officer.
"I'd lost a lot of blood and my vision was blurred, and I said, 'Man, I don't even know your name,'" Robinson-Laney said. "And he just told me not to worry, saying, 'You're good, you're good.'"
Robinson-Laney was taken to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and again was asked for identification.
"That's when I remembered that I'd given my wallet to someone (at the scene), and I told a police officer," Robinson-Laney said.
The officer at the emergency room told him not to worry about the wallet and that he needed to get checked out by doctors, Robinson-Laney said.
"But I told them someone's got my wallet," Robinson-Laney said.
The wallet held not only his debit card but also more than $600 in cash and two $50 gift cards he received as birthday gifts.
After Robinson-Laney was discharged from the hospital on Feb. 28, he said, he checked his bank records online and discovered several questionable uses of the debit card in west St. Louis County.
Robinson-Laney said he has contested three charges, for a total of about $120, at two locations in Chesterfield and one in Ellisville.
At least one of the charges appears to have been at a car wash.
"Why would I buy a car wash membership when I don't even have a vehicle?" he said.
The charges were made just hours after the Feb. 26 crash, between 7:45 a.m. and 8:05 a.m. On March 6, the credit union acknowledged Robinson-Laney's dispute of the charges.
Robinson-Laney and his mother, Kyona Robinson, called police shortly after he was discharged from the hospital. Since then, they have talked with several investigators from the Fourth District. Along with providing descriptions, they also forwarded a copy of the contested bank charges, which they also shared with the Post-Dispatch.
As part of the investigation, Robinson-Laney said investigators had him come to the Fourth District station, at 919 North Jefferson Avenue, to view the video footage.
He said the video shows the man in question looking at the contents of the wallet, pulling out a piece of identification then handing only the ID back.
"And then you can see the man putting my wallet into his pocket," Robinson-Laney said.
Several days later, Robinson was told by police that the man was not a police officer but a St. Louis firefighter.
A police officer also told Robinson that when investigators questioned the firefighter, he claimed he had accidentally used the card, thinking it was his own because he also has one issued by the credit union.
Robinson-Laney and his mother both question how such a mistake could have occurred, given that the card was inside a monogrammed wallet, along with cash and gift cards.
"It was all, all of that stuff, in my wallet," Robinson-Laney said. The wallet, cash and gift cards have not yet been recovered, his mother said.
The department's public information office rejected a request by the Post-Dispatch for police reports, saying the investigation still is active.
In a statement, a spokesperson said, "A person of interest has been developed, however no arrest has been made as of yet."
'I just want justice'
Robinson said when she last talked with police, an officer suggested she file a complaint with the city's public safety department. She filed the complaint on Thursday.
Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson could not be reached for comment, and a spokesperson declined to comment. Also, the fire department has yet to respond to a request for dispatch records connected to the crash.
The firefighter involved in the case also declined to comment.
Robinson said the incident has stirred several emotions, even beyond those prompted by the fatal wreck.
She is frustrated that she has not heard from police for about two weeks and irked that she received a bill from the fire department for transporting her son to the hospital.
But mainly, Robinson said, she is angry that someone took advantage of her son at the scene of a horrific accident that claimed the lives of four friends.
"I can't believe someone would use this as an opportunity to steal. That's just horrible," she said. "I just want justice for my son."
Austin Huguelet of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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