Mayor Lyda Krewson said Friday that she’s “beside herself” over a rash of gun violence in St Louis this week that killed seven and injured 13 others, including a 7-year-old girl.
But even as she pledged more money for police officer salaries, Krewson seemed at a loss for how to bring the spiraling violence under control.
“These incidents are horrific,” Krewson said at a hastily called news conference. “I mean, how do you shoot a 7-year-old? Somebody explain that to me. It makes me livid, it makes me sad.”
Krewson was referring to a shooting Thursday afternoon in the the Walnut Park East neighborhood. Three people were killed and the girl seriously injured when they were shot in a car. A 5-year-old girl who was also in the car was not hurt.
Late Thursday night, 13-year-old Anthony Wilson Jr. was found dead in the Wells-Goodfellow neighborhood. He’d been shot in the face. Police said Wilson was in a group of people, including two who were handling a gun.
The latest spike in crime comes as the city’s two top public safety posts are being run by interim leaders — police chief and public safety director. The search for a new chief will take months, Krewson said, but she said interim Chief Larry O’Toole has “all the authority he needs to do whatever he believes is necessary.”
Union members like and respect O’Toole, according to JP Johnson with the St. Louis Police Officers Association, but they’re worried about the lack of certainty around any policy changes he might make during his tenure.
When Krewson was asked how to bring the violence under control now, she turned to a familiar explanation — the lack of gun control in Missouri.
“For cities across this nation, the easy access to guns continues to make violence more of an option for people,” Krewson said. “And you know, there’s no turning back when you pull that trigger. I think guns are way too easy to get and all of those kinds of things, but we’re not able to turn that around.”
She also said she’ll be doing everything she can to find the money for raises for officers, saying it’s critical to keep them from leaving for St. Louis County, where wages are higher — and that might include a property or sales tax increase.
The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Steve Conway, D-8th Ward, said on Thursday he plans to introduce a bill next week that would require nonprofits in St. Louis to pay payroll taxes. The additional money would be used to boost police salaries.
The city may get some relief this month. Troopers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, are expected to start patrolling interstates by the end of June, which would free up officers to work in the neighborhoods. Sgt. Al Nothum said details are still being worked out.
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