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As shootings soar, St. Louis' top public safety official says violence is 'in every portion' of city

As shootings soar, St. Louis' top public safety official says violence is 'in every portion' of city

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UPDATED at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday with comments by city Public Safety Director Edwards, other details.

ST. LOUIS — The city’s top public safety official, speaking Wednesday after a night marred by shootings that killed three and wounded seven others, said “violence is occurring in every portion and sector of our city.”

Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said during a Facebook Live briefing alongside Mayor Lyda Krewson that personal disputes, domestic quarrels and illicit drugs are the primary reasons for a level of violence that’s “very devastating to all of our community.”

He noted that June was “very difficult,” with homicides rising by 10 from last year to a total of 32 for the month.

He and Krewson spoke after police reported 10 people were shot from about 8 p.m. Tuesday to 2 a.m. Wednesday at four separate scenes, from the north side to the south. In addition to the three who were killed, at least two of the survivors were critically hurt.

The three deaths brought the year’s homicide count in St. Louis to at least 116. At the same time last year, there were 95, St. Louis police Officer Michelle Woodling said.

Krewson said confrontations in St. Louis too often boil down to “settling your differences with guns versus with words.”

Violent crime is increasing in many major cities, including Atlanta, where 31 people were shot over the holiday weekend, five fatally, compared with seven shootings and one killing over the same week in 2019. In Philadelphia, homicides were up 20% for the week ending July 5 over last year.

Experts say the spike may be explained by the storm of issues facing Americans in 2020: a viral pandemic that has killed more than 130,000 people, high unemployment and nationwide protests after the death of a Minnesota man in police custody, George Floyd.

In addition to the spike in violence in St. Louis, Edwards said the police department is down “in excess of 100 officers.”

“We absolutely need more officers,” he said.

Police on Wednesday didn’t have suspects in any of the shootings from the previous night. Here is a brief rundown of each:

• About 8 p.m. Tuesday, two men and a woman were shot while driving near Cass and North Spring avenues. Someone in a maroon SUV opened fire on their car. The injured men are 41 and 56 years old. The woman is 32. Police initially reported that the shooting happened at a Family Dollar store nearby. One man was shot in his leg, the woman was shot in her finger and it wasn’t clear where the third victim was hit. All three were stable at a hospital.

• Around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, three people were shot in the 3700 block of Minnesota Avenue. One man, 32, shot in his legs was critically injured. Police said he was not cooperative with investigators. Two other victims showed up at a hospital on their own. One was a 42-year-old man who was stable, and the other was a 35-year-old man in critical condition. The oldest of the victims told police he was standing on a street corner and heard gunfire, then realized he had been hit.

• About 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, two people were found shot in a car near eastbound Interstate 70 and North Broadway. Anndell Lawrence, 41, of the 5300 block of Olene Drive in Normandy, was dead at the scene. The other man, 30, was taken to a hospital in critical but stable condition. The car was found along I-70 but the shooting itself happened on the interstate downtown, closer to Cass Avenue, Woodling said.

• Around 2 a.m. Wednesday, a man and woman were fatally shot inside a home in the 5900 block of Plymouth Avenue. The man, 38-year-old Julius Lewis, was dead at the scene. The unidentified woman died later at a hospital. Lewis lived at that address.

Edwards and Krewson spoke about an hour after a carjacking in the city in which three male suspects led officers on a 20-minute pursuit into Normandy, at times firing at their pursuers as speeds reached 70 mph, according to St. Louis County police Sgt. Ben Granda.

The driver of the stolen car hit a concrete pole on the side of Lee’s Chicken on Natural Bridge Road before one of the suspects fled the car and was struck by an unmarked county police vehicle. Granda said the suspect stepped in the path of the police vehicle.

The injured suspect was taken to a hospital, where he was in critical but stable condition. Two additional suspects were taken into custody. All three are teenagers, police said.

A Florissant police detective, Joshua Smith, was fired from the department last month and charged with assault for intentionally driving a police SUV into a man fleeing on foot, causing a leg injury to the man that required surgery, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar has said.

Kim Bell • 314-340-8115 @kbellpd on Twitter kbell@post-dispatch.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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