A 14-year-old boy is in critical condition at an area hospital after an encounter with St. Louis city police this morning.
Police said the boy, who is black, ran from two officers who approached him on foot in the Walnut Park neighborhood. According to the officers the boy had a gun and fired one shot at them. The officers, who are white, then returned fire and hit the boy.
Police did not say where the boy was hit, but he is expected to survive.
“I've seen the gun. The officers say that there was at least one shot that was fired at them," said St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, standing outside the police tape at the scene of the shooting about two and a half hours after the 9:30 a.m. shooting. “A 14 year old with a gun, I think really goes to the conversation about the epidemic of violence that we have in our community, that a 14 year old has access to a gun or feels the need to have a gun.
“And certainly when police officers approach running or pointing that gun at officers is — it does nobody in the community any good.”
Neither of the officers was injured. Dotson said they were in the neighborhood looking for a stolen car.
“I don't have any information that connects that young man to that vehicle. But again the officers lost that vehicle, they were looking in the area, they wanted to stop and talk to him. He ran from the officers,” Dotson said.
After being shot on Davison Avenue in front of Walbridge Elementary School, Dotson said it’s believed the 14 year old ran northwest across an empty lot, dropped the gun behind a house and continued running for another block. He may have been with a friend at the time of the shooting.
“This is what we know right now, and none of us were there except the young man and the two officers,” Dotson said. “There is no in-car video, there are no body cameras. We have no video that I'm aware of right now. Certainly if that comes to light we will share that. But this is a process that takes time.”
Dotson said police are looking into whether a camera on the school building may have captured the shooting.
“I wish I had the answers instantaneously because that would make us all feel a lot better. But I don't. It takes time to get to the owner of the camera, takes time to download the video, takes time to talk to people, it takes time to do all of that,” Dotson said. “So we're here, we're going to do the most thorough of jobs. They said the circuit attorney's office is here, they're going to do the most thorough of jobs, and then we'll be able to talk more about it.”
As police began investigating the shooting this morning a crowd of about 30 to 50 people gathered outside the area blocked off with tape and police cars. Rumors swirled that the person hit was 13, sparking increased anger from bystanders waiting to find out more information.
Michelle Harris and Learih Nelson said they found out about the shooting when they were called by a cousin. They live in the neighborhood and came out to see what happened.
“We don’t like the police killing black folks,” Nelson said.
“Yeah, black lives matter, and we’re going to speak that out to the world because there’s too many kids out here dying. It might be me next,” Harris said. “It’s tragic.”
“And it don’t seem like nothing’s changing,” Nelson added.
Dotson made a point of talking to the crowd of onlookers at intervals during the investigation, asking for calm. He also answered several of their questions after sharing details of the investigation with reporters.
During the wait, some members of the crowd shouted at the officers conducting the investigation and guarding the blocked off area.
One woman asked a black officer who investigated the police.
“I’d be at church right now if it weren’t for this,” she said.
“So would I,” the office replied.
Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.