Metro East woman killed in St. Louis garage was mom who rallied against gun violence
Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Belleville News-Democrat.
The Metro East woman killed in a downtown St. Louis parking garage was known for her anti-crime activism to raise awareness about the unsolved shooting death of her son three years ago in East St. Louis.
La’Tatia Stewart, 56, of Cahokia Heights, was found lying on the ground behind her vehicle in a parking garage at 419 N. Ninth St. in St. Louis about 6 p.m. Wednesday, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department said in a news release. Stewart had bullet wounds to her chest and side and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The news release did not list a motive for the shooting and no arrests were announced.
Skyla Pawnell said Thursday she was in disbelief when a cousin told her of the tragic end to Stewart’s life.
Pawnell and Stewart have been friends for three years because they shared a common grief: Both had lost sons to gun violence in East St. Louis and both cases remain unsolved.
“I was very shocked,” Pawnell said when she heard of Stewart’s death. “She was close to me. We were friends. I met her through my cousin after her son got killed. She was a hard worker and she loved her family. Her family loved her, too.”
Stewart’s 31-year-old son, Gregory Stewart, was shot to death on May 29, 2020, at 2408 Bond Ave. in East St. Louis.
Pawnell’s son, 21-year-old Aaron Prayer, was shot and killed in 2018 in East St. Louis.
Since her son’s death, Stewart organized vigils, marches and rallies at the site in an effort to get justice for her son.
It was during her campaign that Stewart met Pawnell.
Stewart and her family would wear T-shirts with photos of Gregory Stewart.
She also opened a YouTube channel, a Facebook group and a Twitter page to share information about her son’s death. She’s placed signs and billboards in the city and has been a guest on podcasts to talk about him.
“We need the public to help us to find the person who shot my baby,” she told the Belleville News-Democrat in 2020.
In 2021, she spoke during a Stop the Violence rally in the former A.M. Jackson School on Summit Avenue in East St. Louis.
“We will not stop until we get justice,” Stewart told the rally crowd.
She said she was frustrated because she believed there are people who have information about her son’s death but are not cooperating with the police.
“I come out here to keep my presence in the neighborhood so that these people out here, they’ll know we’re not going to give up until we receive justice and someone is held accountable for the murder of my son,” Stewart told the BND while visiting the Bond Avenue site last year.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department statement said Stewart is from East St. Louis but her address is in Cahokia Heights. Also, Stewart had previously told the BND that she was from Cahokia Heights.
The St. Louis homicide division is investigating La’Tatia Stewart’s death. Anyone with information is asked to call 314-444-5371 or CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS (8477).
Carolyn P. Smith and Mike Koziatek are reporters with the Belleville News-Democrat, a news partner of St. Louis Public Radio.