Gun Violence | St. Louis Public Radio

Gun Violence

Aaron Murray, 30, works out at Paraquad in St. Louis. Murray was paralyzed from the waist down during a home invasion in 2012.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2011, Aaron Murray bought his first gun at a sporting goods store — a .40 caliber Beretta pistol. He and his wife were fixing up a foreclosed home in a tough neighborhood in the northern suburbs of St. Louis, and he wanted to protect himself.

Two years later, a bullet from his own gun during a home invasion would leave him paralyzed from the waist down.

A memorial rests for Rashad Farmer, who was shot and killed in 2015 on the 5800 block of Lotus Avenue in St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s a grim trend tucked into St. Louis’ 2017 homicide statistics: More than half of the victims are black males under the age of 29 and close to half of those suspected of doing the shootings are in the same age range.

It illustrates a stark reality in the city’s crime-ridden neighborhoods. Officials with the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment say employment and education are an answer to reducing the number of young people killed. But those who have made connections with the city’s youth say there’s more to be done.

Saint John's United Church vigil gun violence Kenneth McKoy
FIle photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

President Donald Trump and members of his Cabinet repeatedly have promised to help get violent crime in cities like St. Louis, which is on pace to have 180-plus homicides for the third year in a row, under control.

The administration has promised an additional $200 million to combat the problem, with most of the money targeted to boosting enforcement. Though St. Louis is guaranteed none of that money, the budget is praised by local law enforcement and criticized by those who daily try to fight crime on the ground.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, along with James Clark of Better Family Life (left), announces on Thursday, June 29, 2017, that the department has turned on a gunshot detection tool called ShotSpotter.
Wiley Price | St. Louis American

A network of sensors now dot a 4-square-mile area of north St. Louis County, touted by police as the latest way to crackdown on gun violence.

Patrons sit on Iowa Street outside Yaquis on Cherokee.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On April 30, Francis Rodriguez, the owner of Yaquis on Cherokee, was drawn to his apartment window by a commotion outside on Cherokee Street. Rodriguez lives above the pizza parlor and, as shots rang out, he and his wife dropped to the floor. After a pause, he ran downstairs to check on the restaurant, where people didn’t immediately recognize the sound of gunfire.

“They're still playing music in here. They didn't hear the shots upstairs that are right outside the door,” he said. “But just as I open up the back door from our apartment and hear people start raising the alarm in here [Yaquis] and so people started screaming and falling onto the floor.”

Painkiller
Tom Walker | Flickr | http://bit.ly/22McgqC

Last year set a record for the number of drug overdose deaths in the St. Louis region, most of them opioid-related. Gun violence has also long been a problem in St. Louis. Although there’s no evidence to prove the rise in the prevalence of both issues is related, the solution to them is interconnected, advocates say.

Today is the first day of summer and that means it’s the start of the busy season for Lise Bernstein. As the president of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice, Bernstein is working her organization’s campaign to distribute free gun locks all summer.

Since the Lock It For Love program began in the spring of 2015, more than 1,800 gun locks have been handed out across St. Louis and St. Louis County. Organizers try to pass out gun locks in St. Louis zip codes where the risk for youth violence is high. That’s according the St. Louis Regional Youth Violence Prevention Task Force Community Plan,  which was released in 2013.

James T. Hodgkinson appears in a St. Clair County Sheriff's Department booking photo on Dec. 31, 1992.
St. Clair County Sheriff's Department

James Hodgkinson, the Belleville, Illinois, man who shot and wounded a Republican congressman and four others June 14 at a Congressional baseball practice acted alone, investigators said Wednesday.

"The FBI is investigating this shooting as an assault on a member of Congress, and an assault on a federal officer," said Andrew Vale, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office. "We also assessed that there is no nexus to terrorism." In this context, terrorism means international groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda.

The Rev. Ken McKoy of the Progressive A.M.E Zion Church organizes NightLIFE walks three times a week in two north St. Louis neighborhoods.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

A group of local clergy and community organizers will hold a “Fathers Peace Walk” for the first time after dark Friday, throughout some of St. Louis’ most dangerous neighborhoods. The event, held two days before Father’s Day, aims to confront high levels of crime in the area.

Fathers will lead the walk, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in front of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, 4675 Page Blvd., in north St. Louis, while mothers lead prayers inside the church.  

Attendees wave the peace sign as Jamie "KP" Dennis performs Sat., June 3, 2017, at the St. Louis rally for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis area politicians and organizations rallied against gun violence this weekend, joining a national movement, amid a run of gun-related deaths in the area.  At least seven people have been shot and killed in the city of St. Louis since Thursday.

Activists with Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence wore orange and held a rally Saturday in Tower Grove Park. Several dozen people attended the event to mark Friday's National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Mayor Lyda Krewson addresses reporters on Fri., June 2, 2017, after a violent week in St. Louis left seven dead and 13 injured by gunfire.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

The St. Louis Children's Hospital's logo, which replaces the 'n' in 'Children's' with an image of the Gateway Arch, is printed all over the hospital campus, including the entrance off Kingshighway Boulevard. Spokeswoman Abby Wuellner said the logo represe
File photo|Nassim Benchaabane | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Children’s Hospital is working to help kids avoid being a repeat victim of violence.

Margie Batek, the supervisor of social work at the hospital, developed the program in 2014. She will publicly present three' years worth of data for the first time Tuesday.

Mya Aaten-White poses for a portrait on Highmont Street in Ferguson, near the spot where she was shot in August 2014.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There is one thing Mya Aaten-White remembers clearly: laying down on a hardwood floor as blood seeped out of her forehead.

Three days into the protests that erupted in Ferguson after a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, someone shot Aaten-White in the head as she walked to her vehicle after a demonstration. She survived, but still has no answers.

“I’m not guaranteed safety on any given day,” Aaten-White said. “I don’t know who shot me, so they could try again.”

Volunteer counselors Dr. Marva Robinson, left, and Adrian Wrice discuss a case during drop-in hours in the basement of the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

In the basement of the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, clinical psychologist Marva Robinson meets with people who know of a conflict that may escalate to violence. She trains her ear to signs of previous trauma or emotional instability. The next day, she starts making calls.

“We start the next day, with trying to make contact with individuals to see how we can have a conversation about the conflict in ways that we can resolve it,” Robinson said.

 In this photo by Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce updates members of the media on her strategies to reduce crime on Monday, December 5, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

In 2015, circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce announced several new initiatives to help combat gun violence. On Monday, she met with the media to discuss whether she thinks those plans are working.

The efforts focused on three main areas:

  • Resolve — Making it clear to the community how much the office needs its help to solve gun violence.
  • Redirect Moving low-level or first-time gun offenders out of the criminal justice system through diversion programs or stricter terms of probation.
  • Remove — Finding ways to get tougher sentences for those prosecutors consider a real danger to society.

Toya Williams of St. Louis picked up a gun lock at the National Council of Jewish Women's Back-to-School Store Sunday, July 24, 2016. She said she liked the suggestion to wear the key around her neck.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

A Missouri state representative from St. Louis County is launching a coalition to prevent the shooting deaths of children who find a loaded weapon in the home. The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance will work with Washington University researchers to build a database tracking accidental shootings nationwide.

“First of all, you need to know what the numbers are. You need to know what the incidents are. We also need to know if adults are charged with anything in their states,” said Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights.

At least 95 children in the United States have been shot and killed accidentally so far this year, according to the database.

Christina Arzate, right, listens to a panel of community mentors talk about gun violence Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

About 30 Washington University students are competing for funds to develop projects to reduce gun violence this weekend.

It’s the latest effort in the university’s on-going gun violence initiative launched almost a year and a half ago.

“We want more student involvement in this public health issue. And also we want them to come up with innovative ideas on how we can solve gun violence since usually (the ideas come) from researchers,” said initiative coordinator Poli Rijos.

Kenrich Henderson gazes at a portrait of her daughter Jamyla Bolden. The painting is a gift from St. Louis artist Jane Martin and an organization called Faces Not Forgotten that produces portraits of children killed by gun violence.
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Public Radio

Kendric Henderson was lying on the bed with her daughter Jamyla Bolden, doing homework, when bullets burst through the window of their Ferguson home. The gunshots killed the 9-year-old and wounded her mother.

Nearly a year later, the pain is still agonizing. But local artists are trying to help keep the good memories alive for Jamyla’s loved ones. They're also helping dozens of other families around the country.

Jacara Sproaps became principal of Dunbar Elementary School in July 2013.
Provided | St. Louis Public Schools

Updated July 15 with suspect’s name, charges — St. Louis Public Schools has lost a second educator to violence in less than a year. Dunbar Elementary School Principal Jacara Sproaps was killed Wednesday night in south St. Louis.

Police said Thursday Sproaps, 38, was shot and killed outside her home in the Gravois Park neighborhood by a man angry with her over their past relationship.

Her boyfriend, Maurice Partlow, was also killed, and her 18-year-old son is in critical but stable condition at an area hospital.One of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police officers who responded to the scene was grazed in the shin by a bullet.

A file photo of North City Urgent Care, at 6113 Ridge Avenue in north St. Louis City.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Violence in north St. Louis is prompting one of the few urgent care clinics in the area to close on the weekends.

A gun battle outside the doors of North City Urgent Care on a Saturday last month was the last straw, said Dr. Sonny Sagar, its medical director. The clinic, at 6113 Ridge Ave., sits in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood and is one of just a few urgent care facilities in the area.

Lindy Drew sits at a bus stop on North Grand Boulevard. with St. Louis resident Bryan Gordon after approaching him about her social media photo project, Humans of St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis photographer Lindy Drew spends her days talking to strangers.

If they’re up for it, Drew asks questions like, “What’s the nicest thing anyone has said to you lately?” before asking to take their picture. If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen her project: Humans of St. Louis, also known as HOSTL (pronounced “hostile”).

Free gun locks will be given out Friday at City Hall in St. Louis
M Glasgow | Flickr

Free gun locks will be given out Friday at City Hall in St. Louis.

The event is part of the “Lock it for Love” program organized by Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice.

Marcis Curtis, an artist and co-founder of Citizen Carpentry, organizes sticky notes during a brainstorming session at the Community Reaction Lab.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Two groups of St. Louisans took on a challenge this weekend that many in the region have spent years trying to address: Find a way to reduce gun violence in the community.

And there was a catch. The groups had just 24 hours to create a proposal.

Rep. Stacey Newman (left) and St. Louis circuit attorney Jennifer Joyce (center) listen to Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker as Baker announces her support for Newman's legislation on February 29, 2016.
Rachel Lippmann | St. Louis Public Radio

The prosecutors in Missouri's two largest cities are joining with pediatricians to support legislation that would make it a crime to leave a loaded weapon accessible to children.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, is the sponsor of the bill, which makes it a felony if a gun owner "knowingly fails to secure a readily available, loaded deadly weapon in the presence of a child less than 17 years of age." A weapon would be considered secure if it had a functioning trigger lock, was kept in a safe, or was unloaded.

In 2015, on average there is more than one mass shooting per day in the United States—and the impact of that is felt across the country. From the terror attacks in Charleston, Paris, Colorado Springs and San Bernardino to shootings closer to home, it is hard for the topic to stay off the minds of Americans these days.

vigil gun violence st. john's remember reflect respond
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

When he heard that his son had been shot, Rev. Ken McKoy felt the 15-minute drive to the hospital was the longest he has ever taken. His son’s life flashed before his eyes.

A white cross for every homicide in St. Louis and St. Louis County this year line the lawn of Mount Beulah Missionary Baptist Church Dec. 6, 2015.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Valerie Dent remembers the exact time her sons 31-year-old James and 24-year-old Steven were shot and killed Sept. 5, 2014.  It was 7:45 a.m. when James, a father of two, and his brother had just stepped of the bus they rode home from work on a day that saw six gun homicides within 18 hours.

As homicides continue to tick up in St. Louis, many officials say gun violence should be approached as a public health issue.
Tony Webster | Flickr

The nationwide debate about gun control, mass shootings, and violent crime was once again jump-started in the wake of recent massacres at a county center in California and at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado that left several people dead.

But here in St. Louis, officials are concerned with a different type of gun violence — the kind that happens almost routinely and usually takes one life at a time.

St. Louis International Film Festival

Nick Berardini was just a journalism student at the University of Missouri when he was sent out on an assignment that would impact his life and his career as a filmmaker. He was sent to Moberly, Missouri to report on a man who died while in police custody after being pulled over for drunk driving.

Four hand guns on a red cloth.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Facebook

St. Louis is a step closer to accepting a grant from the federal government to help battle gun violence in the city.

The Board of Aldermen's public employees committee on Thursday authorized the city to accept a $417,512 SMART Prosecution grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Justice Department. The full Board of Aldermen must also approve the grant.

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