ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis man has admitted shooting 7-year-old Xavier Usanga, federal prosecutors said in a court filing unsealed Friday.
Malik Ross, 23, appeared in court on an unrelated charge: Prosecutors said he stole $50,000 from an armored car company for which he worked. But in a motion seeking to jail him until trial, prosecutors said Ross had admitted firing a gunshot that killed Xavier on Monday in St. Louis, a crime that outraged city officials and enraged neighborhood parents.
Prosecutors, citing the stealing charge, a risk that he would flee and his criminal history, said that “no conditions” of release would assure public safety and also Ross’ appearance in court.
In a brief hearing Friday afternoon, Ross appeared in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Cohen, who told him he’d be back in court Tuesday for a detention hearing and a preliminary examination. A somber Ross asked Cohen to appoint him a lawyer. He was wearing a black Juice WRLD concert T-shirt, khaki pants and black galoshes. In response to curious looks from his public defender, Ross said he’d been given the rain boots to wear, but didn’t say why.
Ross has not been charged by the state in connection with Xavier’s shooting. A spokeswoman for St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kimberly M. Gardner said in a message Thursday that police did not have enough evidence.
On Friday, the spokeswoman pointed out that Ross was in federal custody and no longer a flight or safety risk. “We are actively working with police,” said spokeswoman Susan Ryan, “to obtain the evidence we need to secure a conviction in a court of law.”
The federal charges, which were filed under seal on Tuesday, say that Ross was a driver and messenger for Garda World Cash Logistics. On Tuesday — the day after Xavier’s death — Ross was transporting money from Midwest Regional Bank to the Currency Exchange check cashing store at 1809 Olive Street in St. Louis. There, a co-employee got out of the vehicle to deliver cash to the store, and returned to find Ross missing.
Police later found that $50,000 had been taken, charging documents say. Video footage showed Ross fleeing the scene and discarding part of his Garda uniform. He did not return to work.
Ross was arrested Wednesday between 8:45 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., neighbors told the Post-Dispatch. City and police records indicate he has been held since then on a series of minor warrants and a “hold” from the U.S. Marshals Service.
A group of men sitting outside Boyd A-1 Auto Repair at the corner of West Florissant and East Prairie avenues said Thursday that they’d seen a man in a red shirt in his 20s or 30s arrested and escorted by law enforcement from the two-story house next door. Around 30 officers showed up, they said.
Detectives also spoke with an older man in a white shirt who walked out of the house’s back door Wednesday to find about six officers pointing assault rifles at him. The man put his hands up. Officers didn’t arrest him, the men at the auto repair shop said.
No one lived in the house, said one of the men, Redd Anthony. But workers had been coming in and out of the place for about a month doing renovations. “Neighbors mind their business,” Anthony said. “(He) could hide in plain sight.”
Xavier was fatally shot in his backyard, in the 3500 block of North 14th Street, just after 5 p.m. Monday.
People in the neighborhood told Xavier’s parents that two men had started fighting over a basketball game, that their dispute turned violent, and that one was the 18-year-old critically wounded in Xavier’s shooting.
Dawn Usanga said she had feared her son would end up like the young men who had been hanging out across the street from their house in recent months, carrying guns, swearing and walking around like they owned the place.
“You do your best to raise your kids right,” she said. “But there are other influences out there.”