The St. Louis chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) says that a 13-year-old girl who allegedly shot an elderly couple is “not a monster,” and says that repeated failures in “the system” led to the shooting.
As KMOV (St. Louis) reports, St. Louis NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt held a press conference Tuesday to discuss the case of the teenager accused of shooting the elderly owners of a suburban beauty supply store. Standing before a poster depicting surveillance footage of the teen, Pruitt said the girl is “not a monster.”
“This is not a monster, it’s a child crying out for help. The parents reached out to both law enforcement and the medical community when the child was acting out, seeking help. And didn’t get the help they sought.”
Police Chief on Kings Beauty Supply Double Shooting: ‘Utterly Speechless’ « CBS St. Louis https://t.co/7YJEo7JISj Give her death penalty!
— Sharon McCutchan (@SharonMcCutchan) July 20, 2016
On July 19, 2016, the girl, whose name has not been released to the media because she is a juvenile, went with a friend to King’s Beauty Supply in suburban Bellefontaine Neighbors. Authorities allege that the two teens stole hair extensions and that the owners — a couple in their 70s — kicked them out.
The teens returned a short time later and caused a “disturbance” of some kind. The girl’s friend was arrested on an outstanding juvenile warrant, but the elderly couple declined to press charges against the teen. She allegedly showed up a third time, just before 4:30 p.m., with a gun. Police say she shot the elderly couple, leaving them both in critical condition.
This week, a hearing will decide whether or not the girl will be tried as an adult.
Pruitt says that a series of failures from various agencies and institutions failed the girl, putting her in a position where she’s predisposed to a life of crime.
The girl was born with drugs already in her system, thanks to a mother who abused drugs during her pregnancy. Missouri child welfare officials took the girl from her parents. Once the parents completed mandatory training, the family was reunited, but Pruitt alleges that authorities failed to provide adequate follow-up.
In school, the unnamed girl did about as well as could be expected, but by 4th or 5th grade she was having behavioral problems and was sent to an alternative school. At ACE Learning Center, where the staff is trained to deal with kids or behavioral issues, the girl did reasonably well and appeared to be getting her behavior on track.
By 7th or 8th grade, the girl was again having behavioral problems, and her parents wanted to send her back to ACE. However, the school system refused to pay for her transportation, and her parents, neither of whom owned a vehicle, could not transport her there. She remained in regular school, and her behavioral problems worsened.
At one point, the girl’s parents took her to a health care facility for a psychological analysis, thinking it would lead to her getting help. Less than an hour later, Pruitt says, workers said she was “fine” and let the matter drop. Another time, the girl ran away from home. When the police found her, Pruitt says, they told the parents to just “leave her out there” next time because she was going to eventually wind up in police custody anyway.
“Law enforcement has to be brought into this picture, where they have the ability to identify these sort of problems at an early stage and we have to find mechanisms to work with them on those children they identify to ensure they get the intervention they need, and that intervention does not need to be future arrests down the road.”
Pruitt says that, whenever the girl got the help she needed, she was able to get on the right track. But, he says, the systematic failures that allowed the girl to fall through the cracks put her where she was on the day of the alleged shootings.
[Feature Image by St. Louis Crimestoppers]