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Kinloch mayor wants earlier closing time at St. Louis County park where five people were shot

Kinloch mayor wants earlier closing time at St. Louis County park where five people were shot

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KINLOCH — After a Friday shooting killed two people, injured three and left many others running for their lives at a park here, the mayor of this historic community said she wants help from St. Louis County.

“We are trying to work on an ordinance to get that park closed at a certain time,” Kinloch Mayor Evelyn Carter said Tuesday, adding that she also wants more attention from park rangers.

Current signage at Kinloch Park, a St. Louis County park at 5541 Mable Avenue, says closing time is 30 minutes after sunset and no alcoholic beverages are allowed.

On Friday evening at the park, there was an annual party for people with roots in the area. Carter said she didn’t attend because she doesn’t like large crowds. She lives nearby, though, and heard the shots when they started going off shortly before 6:30 p.m. One went through her neighbor’s window.

“I hit the floor,” Carter said. “Bullets were everywhere.”

Witnesses gave varying descriptions of how long the shooting lasted. Benjamin Granda, a spokesman for St. Louis County Police, said it probably lasted about five minutes.

Granda said 100 to 200 people were there for what he described as a block party. He said it was still unclear what motivated the shooting and if the incident was gang-related. As the investigation progresses, he said, “hopefully” there will be more answers.

“This is a challenge, as investigators are dealing with varying levels of cooperation from the parties involved,” Granda said.

By all accounts, the scene was chaotic.

“I was running,” said a 17-year-old high school student who left her purse behind. “I was trying to get away from the shots.”

Once home to more than 10,000 residents, much of Kinloch was bought up starting in the 1980s for a noise-abatement program at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. Leading to the park, the area has a mix of overgrown streets and vacant lots littered with discarded furniture, tires and other detritus. Many of the structures, if still standing, are abandoned.

Though small — fewer than 300 people live here today — there is still life in what remains of the first city in Missouri to be incorporated by African Americans. One man who recently moved to Kinloch from nearby Ferguson said he hit the floor with his niece and nephew when the shooting started Friday. He said it sounded like a variety of different guns going off.

Another neighbor, Zach Bain, 27, lives at Suburban Heights Apartments, a 102-unit complex that borders the park and is mainly occupied by University of Missouri-St. Louis students. The gated complex has been refurbished since it was formerly called Boaz Apartments.

From his widow, Bain said he saw the party across the street erupt into what looked like a “full-out gang war.” He said some gunmen fired large weapons behind them as they ran across the field to their vehicle. Once there, he said, they crouched down and fired toward a park pavilion.

“It looked like there were more people shooting back from the pavilion toward them,” Bain said.

Bain said he saw one man shot in the leg who was picked up and taken away with a child watching.

Police said no shooting victims were on the scene when officers arrived, but a total of five men injured during the incident showed up at the hospital. Two of those men died. They have been identified as Eddie Wilkerson, 38, of the 10600 block of Spring Garden Drive in the Glasgow Village area of unincorporated north St. Louis County, and Montrez Hughes, 18, of the 2600 block of Washington Avenue in St. Louis.

Someone from Kinloch who didn’t want to be named said both of the dead men had ties to the community. A message left for Hughes’ family over the weekend was not returned. A friend of Wilkerson’s contacted Tuesday didn’t want to be named but said Wilkerson had several children and wanted to open a dog kennel soon.

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