At least nine children have been killed in gun violence in St. Louis in the past four months, and as of this writing, police have issued no criminal charges in any of the slayings, Yahoo News reports.
On Friday, August 23, 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson had attended a football jamboree with her family. As St. Louis’ KSDK-TV reports, a brawl broke out between groups of students and their families, about 100 people in total, and shots soon rang out. One of the bullets struck and killed the young girl.
Days before, as The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, 7-year-old Xavier Usanga was playing in front of his house when he was struck and killed by a stray bullet. Neighbors said that two men were arguing over a basketball game, and the argument eventually resulted in gunfire. In addition to Usanga being killed, an 18-year-old man was critically injured in the shooting.
Other kids killed in St. Louis in recent months include:
- Two-year-old Kayden Johnson and his 18-year-old mother, Trina’ty Riley, who were shot to death by an intruder in their home. The two were hiding in a closet.
- Three-year-old Kennedi Powell, who was standing near her father’s car when a vehicle pulled up and an occupant opened fire.
- Eddie Hill IV, 10, also killed in a drive-by shooting.
— Emily Pritchard (@emilyjpritch) August 24, 2019
As heartbreaking as the shootings have been for the community, making matters worse is the fact that no criminal charges have been issued in relation to any of the shootings. In fact, only one arrest has been made in connection to any of the shootings: a 23-year-old man has been arrested in relation to another crime, and has allegedly confessed to killing Xavier. However, as of this writing, he has not been charged with his killing.
Police say that neighbors and witnesses are reluctant to talk to the police because they fear retaliation.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said that witnesses need to be less concerned with retaliation and instead try to put themselves in the shoes of the parents of the victims.
“What would happen to little children if you don’t [help catch the shooters]?” he said.
Similarly, Jimmie Edwards, the St. Louis public safety director and a former juvenile court judge, warned that witnesses could themselves be facing criminal charges if they shelter a shooter and don’t speak up.
“If you or someone else you know may be hiding a shooter, please turn them in. Your failure to turn in people that have committed these types of offenses may also cause you to be charged with a crime,” he said.