Map updated to include identity of two additional victims.
St. Louis police are investigating a string of apparently unrelated shootings in the city that left six people dead over an 18-hour period.
The violence began Thursday afternoon around 3 p.m., when two men with assault-style weapons opened fire on cars driving at Adelaide Ave. and Hall St. in the College Hill neighborhood. Donald White, who was driving home from work, was shot and killed, and at least two others were injured.
None of the victims of the first shooting, said police chief Sam Dotson, were the intended target.
“And that’s very alarming to me as the chief of police,” he said. “It will bother me until we get it solved.”
About three hours later, firefighters responding to a car fire found the body of an unidentified male in the driver’s seat. Dotson said investigators believe there were at least two other passengers in the car when the victim was shot.
Less than two hours after that, around 7:45 p.m., detectives responded to a shooting and car crash along eastbound Interstate 70 at Grand. Dotson says it may have been a case of mistaken identity.
“The lady was driving a dark Chevrolet Impala with heavily tinted windows,” he said. “Individuals in two separate cars pull up next to the vehicle, point at it, and then start to shoot at it. For some reason, these individuals thought that car was a car they were interested in.”
Assault-style weapons also appear to have been used in that shooting, Dotson said, but they do not match the ballistics of the guns used at Adelaide and Hall.
Around 9:30 p.m., police were alerted to a dead body in a vacant lot in the 4200 block of Obear Ave. Dotson said witnesses told investigators that the unidentified male victim was talking to the occupants of a dark-colored pickup truck before he was shot.
And less than 12 hours later, two brothers -- 34-year-old James Dent and 25-year-old Steven Dent – were shot and killed near a bus stop in the 5800 block of Julian Ave. Dotson said witnesses overheard an argument before shots were fired.
Dotson said the apparent use of assault-style weapons in two of the cases proved a point he’s made in 18 months as chief.
“It’s far too easy for criminals to get their hands on them, and they’re far too willing to use those weapons,” he said.
The chief again repeated his call for a separate docket to handle gun crimes, which judges in the city rejected last year.
“We need a path that when we arrest individuals with guns, we can hold them accountable,” he said. “I don’t know if it would have made a difference in this case. It certainly wouldn’t have hurt.”
Homicides in St. Louis were up 21 percent in August over last year, and investigators are already dealing with seven more killings in the month of September. But Dotson said his commanders saw nothing in the crime statistics that hinted at such a spike.
“Crime is down 50 percent since 2006,” he said. “Crime is down overall 11 percent year to date. Aggravated assaults, which are a precursor to homicides, and other behaviors, are down as well.”
There were more homicides, robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts in August of 2014 than the same month last year.
“Crime doesn’t go down in a straight line and it doesn’t go up in a straight line,” Dotson said. “We’ve had, in recent years, 74 homicides, and 120 the year before. You have to look at a snapshot that’s longer than a month, or a week, or a year, but it doesn’t always go down.”
He said the department is putting extra patrols along Interstate 70 near Grand Ave. and at Adelaide and Hall, both to prevent retaliatory shootings and to let people in those neighborhoods know that police are doing their jobs.
Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann