St. Louis-Area Activists Demand An End To Violence; Shooting Shakes Maryland Heights
Updated at 12:45 p.m., Feb. 25 with more details about the Maryland Heights shooting
People throughout the St. Louis region are gathering this week to again call for an end to gun violence that has plagued their communities.
Only an hour after marchers in St. Louis and East St. Louis kicked off Peace Week demonstrations urging people to put down their weapons, a gunman killed a woman working at a community center in Maryland Heights.
“Those who are really shooting, in my opinion, it goes a lot deeper than them picking up a gun and releasing bullets,” said Marty K. Casey, co-coordinator of the marches. “We need to see it as an outburst, as an outcry, and we need to give it the attention that it needs so that we can deal with that.”
Later on Monday, police responded to a shooting at the Maryland Heights Community Center. A gunman killed a supervisor at the community center and fired at a police officer who had arrived on an unrelated call, 5 On Your Side reported. The officer shot and wounded the man, who was taken into custody and remains hospitalized with serious injuries, police officials said.
The woman has been identified as Maria Lucas, 45, of Olivette. She had worked for the city of Maryland Heights for seven years. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The gunman, a 30-year-old janitor at the community center, was sent home from work and reacted with anger, Maryland Heights Police Chief William Carson said during a press conference Tuesday morning. The janitor approached Lucas, had a conversation with her, then pulled out a handgun, Carson said.
A deadly stretch of gun violence
Monday’s demonstrations followed a violent weekend. In north St. Louis, 6-year-old David Birchfield III was shot and killed, and a 9-year-old was critically injured in the same shooting on North Euclid Avenue.
The march organizers and others are particularly worried about the deaths of young people in their communities. Since early last year, more than a dozen children have died after being shot.
In St. Louis, people marched east from the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive to the Friendly Temple Youth Worship Center at Burd Avenue and King. Demonstrators also marched on Dr. Martin Luther King Drive in East St. Louis.
'We cannot leave this crisis to a future generation'
On both sides of the metro area, elected officials and people from the community demanded an end to senseless gun violence.
“We have got to take peace and insert it into our celebration of black history,” said James Clark, vice president of community outreach for Better Family Life and co-coordinator of the marches. “We cannot leave this crisis to a future generation.”
Organizers said it’s time for an aggressive effort from community members to help end the region’s string of shootings — particularly those that take the lives of children.
“The only way that we can make any kind of justifiable sense out of that is that we keep that child’s legacy and spirit alive by doing the work,” Casey said, speaking of the 6-year-old. “The spirit of what took place in this room tonight and the march, and the rain was off the back of the spirit of that child.”
Coalition members and organizers stressed that gun violence isn’t just a St. Louis issue but a regional one.
“We’re going to fight against the darkness of what’s happening on both sides of the river,” Casey said. “We have to shift the atmosphere, and I believe tonight we did that.”
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