UPDATED at 12:50 p.m. Wednesday with comments from pastor and statistics from police about serious crimes this year involving young offenders.
ST. LOUIS — A 7-year-old boy was shot in a leg Tuesday night when a St. Louis resident caught the boy and two others burglarizing his home, police said.
The child was one of three boys who climbed through a window of the home in the 1800 block of North 20th Street, police said. A 12-year-old boy was struck in the wrist by a bullet fragment or debris, police said. The third boy, 12, was unhurt.
Police said the shooting occurred about 6 p.m. Tuesday in the city’s St. Louis Place neighborhood.
The resident was a 23-year-old man. He told police he heard banging and glass breaking at the back of his home. When he went to take a look, the man saw the boys coming into the home through a broken window, police said.
“Fearing for his safety,” police said, “the victim fired one shot from his personal weapon” in the direction of the boys.
Police said the two injured boys were taken to a hospital and were stable.
The incident was the latest to involve suspects at an alarmingly young age. On April 30, a 10-year-old boy was among carjackers in Soulard who robbed a woman at gunpoint and led police on a brief car chase, authorities said.
And last year, police said a 13-year-old boy took a woman’s car in the Benton Park West neighborhood.
St. Louis police spokeswoman Evita Caldwell said Wednesday that police have not seen “a noticeable increase in crimes committed by juveniles 10 and under.”
By the end of April, police in St. Louis had investigated eight serious crimes this year involving offenders ages 10 to 12 years old, she said. The crimes included forcible rape, aggravated assault, receiving stolen property, sexual misconduct and drug possession, Caldwell said.
In the first four months of 2019, police investigated five crimes involving offenders ages 10 to 12, Caldwell added. Those crimes were motor vehicle theft, assault, vandalism and two cases of receiving stolen property. But none involved children as young as 7.
“There were zero records found involving juvenile offenders under the age of 10, for both years,” Caldwell said.
Court records show last year in St. Louis there were 12 children ages 11 to 13 who were charged with the most serious crimes. Another 32 who were 14 or 15 years old were charged with such crimes.
Officers at first weren’t sure how or where Tuesday’s shooting happened, and crime tape cordoned off a large scene in the area of North Market and 20th Street. Investigators initially believed the boys might have been playing with a gun. It wasn’t immediately clear when the resident came forward to tell police about the burglary.
St. Louis Alderman Brandon Bosley, whose Ward 3 includes part of the St. Louis Place neighborhood, said he was shocked when he heard one boy was 7.
“That is ridiculous,” Bosley told the Post-Dispatch. “That is the youngest I’ve heard of doing a burglary.”
Bosley said some of the children in the inner city come from of a generation that was imprisoned or affected heavily by drug use.
“I guarantee you that 7-year-old’s father is in jail, his mother is single or somebody that is supposed to be watching him is affected by drug use,” Bosley said.
He said the boy needs therapy, not only to help him with the trauma he experienced by being shot and taken into police custody, but also to put him on “the right track.”
“If there’s no one around to keep him from doing these things, imagine what he’ll be doing at 14 years old,” he said.
The crime scene was close to Zion Lutheran Church, where the Rev. Frederick Raedeke has worked for many years. Raedeke said he saw about 10 officers swarm the area and a policeman carrying the 7-year-old.
Raedeke said the area tends to have more drug-related crimes and shootings. He said he has been the victim of theft.
Asked about the age of the offenders, Raedeke said it doesn’t necessarily surprise him.
“They’re not in school (because of the coronavirus pandemic) and that gives them more opportunity to get in trouble,” he said. “I feel badly about the whole school thing. Kids ought to be in school.”