NAACP calls on cop killer to turn himself in
St. Louis, Mo. – As St. Louis police continue to search for the person who killed one of their own, the NAACP is urging the gunman to turn himself in.
Norvelle Brown, 22, was shot to death Wednesday night. He had been on the force for a little over nine months, but had already earned a letter of commendation from the police chief for breaking up an armed robbery in progress.
Governor Blunt ordered that flags at state facilities in the city be flown at half-staff to honor Brown's memory.
Brown was, by all accounts, the kind of young man a police force seeks out. He asked to be assigned to the rough area where he grew up, served as a youth sports coach and was a mentor to teens.
"I think it's a national tragedy that so many officers are shot at," Police Chief Joe Mokwa said at an afternoon news conference, a black band cutting wrapped across his badge. "I go to bed every night with the fear that somebody's going to be injured."
Police are still sorting out the details of Brown's death. Mokwa said the officer was alone patrolling a north St. Louis neighborhood when he apparently approached someone or perhaps a small group of people. Police have received reports of up to three men running from the area after the shooting.
Brown was wearing a bulletproof vest but the bullet entered through the back of his left shoulder, piercing both lungs, and exited through his right armpit.
Brown managed to radio for help. Two officers arrived and administered CPR, then rushed him to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he died. He was the third St. Louis officer shot to death since 2005.
"It's very difficult for the department," Mayor Francis Slay said. "Our prayers are with his family and this police department. From our standpoint, everything will be done to catch the individual or individuals responsible."
Officers have recovered two guns from the area of the shooting Brown's service revolver and a .38-caliber gun police suspect was used in the shooting. Mokwa said Brown managed to return fire, but authorities don't know if the suspect or suspects were hit.
Police conducted a ground and aerial search and brought in dogs, but had no suspects.
City police have been more frequently shot at in recent years. Mokwa made the use of body armor mandatory for the city's 1,100 street officers in October 2002 after an officer was shot while responding to a minor car wreck.
Robert Stanze was shot to death in August 2000 while arresting a suspect. And in January 2004, 24-year-old officer Nicholas Sloan was shot while conducting a narcotics operation when the suspect took Sloan's handgun and shot the officer in the chest, just above his bulletproof vest. Sloan's partner, though shot twice, returned fire and killed the suspect.
Mokwa said limited resources simply do not allow the department to place two officers in every car. He said the majority of street officers patrol alone.
"From a safety standpoint do I wish every car had two officers? I do," Mokwa said. "It's just not practical."
The Backstoppers organization, which provides counseling and financial assistance to relatives of officers killed in the line of duty, will provide $5,000 immediately to Brown's survivors, said Ron Battelle, the organization's executive director. The Backstoppers also provides health insurance and assistance with education expenses, home repair and maintenance costs and other special needs the family may have.
Brown joined the department as a recruit in March 2006 and graduated from the Police Academy in November. The 2003 graduate of Vashon High School in St. Louis was a coach for the Police Athletic League and received a chief's letter of commendation at an award ceremony two months ago.
Mokwa honored Brown and another officer for quick actions in responding to reports of a robbery in progress at a barber shop, resulting in the arrest of the suspect, the recovery of stolen money and the recovery of a loaded semiautomatic pistol.
"Officer Brown was quite an asset to the department," Mokwa said.
Dozens of St. Louisans and police officers from around the nation offered condolences on the Officer Down Memorial Page Web site.
"The City of St. Louis thanks you for your hard work and dedication," one anonymous posting read. "When is it going to stop?"
A posting from the sister of Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee, who was shot to death in July 2005, wrote, "How sad that we lose another officer to senseless violence."
Funeral arrangements for Brown have not been set.