St. Louis police identify three killed in crash while fleeing officers

2012-09-20T15:45:00Z 2012-10-04T12:14:38Z St. Louis police identify three killed in crash while fleeing officersBY KIM BELL and MARGARET GILLERMAN stltoday.com

UPDATED at 11 p.m. Thursday with information from relatives

ST. LOUIS • A car fleeing from police crashed along the Grand Boulevard bridge in midtown and split in half early today, killing three occupants and sending a fourth to the hospital, authorities say.

One of those killed was a young mother, Dasha Rhodes, 20, of the 2600 block of Armand Place in St. Louis. She leaves behind a six-month-old son and a large grieving family.

"It's really heartbreaking," said her aunt LaTasha Reese, 37. "I don't think she knew what was going on when she got into that car. "

Rhodes' relatives were both stunned and perplexed and described her as sweet and a good mother.

"She was really outgoing, and the type who wanted to learn and do better," Reese said. Rhodes graduated from Hazelwood East High School and was studying at Florissant Valley Community College.

Police identified the others who were killed as Lamont Cross, 22, of the 7100 block of Lamont Drive in Flordell Hills, and Gregory Franklin, 23, of the 1400 block of Rowan Avenue in St. Louis. Police withheld the identity of a 21-year-old man in the car who was critically injured.

No police officers were hurt.

Police haven't yet determined which of the four people was driving the car.

The crash scene stretched for nearly 60 yards, as the impact from the car hitting concrete planters and a light pole split the car and hurled debris along the bridge.

The car crashed north of Chouteau Avenue, beneath the ornate, arcing "St. Louis University" sign that spans the traffic lanes at the bridge's entrance.

Occupants of the Nissan Maxima were apparently involved in a series of shootings at 11 p.m. Wednesday and 1 a.m. today in the 2300 block and 2500 block of Minnesota Avenue, St. Louis Police Capt. Michael Sack said. The later incident involved a home being shot up with people inside but not hurt, he said. A woman heard shots and found bullet holes in her home.

Based on witness accounts of the shootings, police knew they were looking for a dark-colored Nissan. At about 2:45 a.m., officers spotted a car matching that description at Shenandoah and California avenues near Fox Park. They saw a backseat passenger holding a weapon, police say. The officers tried to stop the car but it sped away.

With officers in pursuit, the car sped north, but the driver lost control north of Chouteau and the car slid sideways into several decorative concrete planters and a light pole. Police say they recovered one handgun along the nearly two-mile route of the chase.

On Thursday night, visits to two of the victims' homes found large mourning families outside on the street and front porch.

Juan Reese, 52, Rhodes' cousin, said, "She was really smart, cute and a good mother -- and in an instant she's gone. It's terrible."

Franklin's aunt and a cousin said he came from a close-knit family and was loved. About 30 family members of all ages were there to support one another.

The Grand bridge carries about 30,000 cars a day and is the gateway to the St. Louis University campus and Grand Center from the south.

The bridge was rebuilt at a cost of $22 million and reopened in July. It included raised sidewalks, designated bicycle lanes, turn-out lanes for buses and an improved MetroLink station beneath the bridge.

 

Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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