ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis family has been trying for more than a year to get a woman to stop making racist threats against them at their south city home.
Fatima Suarez said the woman, a stranger, initially broke into her parents’ home with a hammer, and since then has repeatedly harassed them at their Princeton Heights home.
Suarez said she’s tried, to no avail, to get police to stop her.
But then video of the incident went viral Tuesday on the app TikTok, bringing attention to her family’s plight — and an admission from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office that a warrant for the woman’s arrest had sat unresolved for more than a year in a drop-off box containing warrants for nonviolent crimes.
Suarez, 22, whose parents and 5-year-old sister live at the home on Lisette Avenue, said Tuesday she was frustrated it took a viral video to get authorities’ attention. The video included footage that was captured by the family’s Ring doorbell and initially posted to TikTok by Suarez.
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“It’s just crazy how it took this for it to be important for them,” said Suarez, who shared emails with video footage to police. She’s tried multiple times to get a restraining order but was unsuccessful, she said.
“If the video hadn’t gone viral,” Suarez said, “I guess it would have just still been put on the side.”
The video, viewed tens of thousands of times, shows an angry white woman beating the door of Suarez’s parents’ home with a hammer while making racist threats.
“You’re illegals living here,” the woman says in the video. “Get out. You’re a bunch of illegals. You don’t belong on American property ... show me some illegal paper ‘cause I know you didn’t buy this house. You don’t have enough money.”
The video caught the woman just after she broke into the home’s basement in January 2022 with a hammer and smashed several objects, Suarez said. But it was only the first of at least six times she harassed the family at the home, even after she was arrested three times.
Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s office said Tuesday they “elevated” the application for an immediate review but as of Tuesday evening did not have any video evidence like the footage circulating online.
Police applied for warrants in January 2022, after the break-in, but put the application in a “drop-off” box for nonviolent crimes, spokeswoman Allison Hawk said.
Police have discretion to “flag” warrants in nonviolent crimes so they can be reviewed within 24 hours but did not do so, she said. Asked why it took more than a year to review the case, Hawk said the office prioritizes violent crimes and reviews other cases “on a rolling basis.”
Police, who earlier Tuesday referred questions about charges to Gardner’s office, did not immediately respond to the statement.
The department confirmed officers arrested a suspect for disturbances at the home on:
- Jan. 5, 2022, about 5:30 p.m., for two felonies — first-degree robbery and first-degree property damage
- March 17, 2022, about 1:30 p.m., for municipal violations of trespassing and miscellaneous peace disturbance
- Dec. 12, 2022, about 10:37 p.m. for a peace disturbance
Evita Caldwell, a spokesperson for city police, said the department released the incident reports without requiring a public records request “due to the attention it has garnered insinuating a lack of police response.”
But police would not identify who was arrested, citing state law that declares arrest records closed to the public if the arrestee was not charged with a criminal offense within 30 days.
The woman named in the viral videos is not being identified by the Post-Dispatch because she has not been charged with a crime. Neither the woman nor her relatives could be reached Tuesday for comment.
The woman claimed in the video the house was hers. Property records show the house was owned by apparent relatives of the woman named in the video until about 30 years ago.
Suarez’s parents, originally from Mexico, bought and moved into the home on Lisette six years ago. Things were fine until that day in January, she said, when her father and sister were in the first-floor living room and heard what sounded like a window breaking in the basement.
Her father rushed to the basement door and found a woman with a hammer walking up the stairs. He slammed the door and locked it shut. The woman then left the basement and went around to the front door, where the family’s Ring camera caught her beating the door with a hammer.
“We had never seen her in our lives,” Suarez said. “She doesn’t live around the neighborhood.”
In March, the woman was arrested after she stole mail from the house and attacked Suarez and her husband when they confronted her, Suarez said. Another 10 months went by before the woman returned, in December, on two occasions, at one point sitting outside the home for hours overnight.
She last returned Feb. 1, knocking on the door again before apparently trying to pick the lock, Suarez said.
The viral video
Suarez’s parents caught footage of the woman appearing at the home multiple times on the family’s front-door Ring security camera, and she posted footage of the first two incidents to TikTok days after they happened.
She posted videos again after the latest incident Feb. 1. But the videos didn’t get viral attention until Monday, when a popular TikToker with more than 5 million followers reposted Suarez’s videos and called for a public campaign to provide help.
“Law enforcement in St. Louis, Missouri needs to do something,” said the TikToker, Michael McWhorter, a video editor and director whose social media profiles call out apparent racist, homophobic, violent or otherwise illegal behavior in videos.
Neighbors in the area said they weren’t aware of the woman’s visits to the home.
Ben Schulte, who lives two houses down from Suarez’s parents, said the family is a great neighbor, and they left him a Christmas gift on his porch last year after they noticed him cleaning the sidewalk outside.
“I’ve had nothing but good times with them,” Schulte said. “You’re talking about model citizens here.”
Suarez’s parents did not respond when a reporter knocked on the door Tuesday. The door bore yellow markings where it appeared it had been hit with a hammer.
Suarez said her parents were afraid to speak publicly because the woman harassing them hadn’t yet seen their faces.
“They don’t feel comfortable to even open up the windows or the curtain,” Suarez said.