UPDATED at 11:30 a.m. Monday with police continuing to search for evidence, including bullet casings, at scene.
ST. LOUIS • Police shot and wounded a 14-year-old boy after he fired at a shot at officers Sunday morning in the Walnut Park East neighborhood, Police Chief Sam Dotson said.
The shooting was reported about 9:25 a.m. in the 5000 block of Beacon Avenue; the department posted a tweet saying the wounded person was stable at a hospital.
No officers were injured in the shooting.
Dotson told reporters at the scene that officers had been searching for a car taken in a carjacking late last month. After a short pursuit, police said, the officers stopped to try to talk to at least one teen walking on Lillian Avenue. Police described him as a suspect. The teen ran off, turned through a vacant lot near Walbridge Elementary School and fired at least one shot before officers returned fire, police said.
The boy dropped the gun and ran but was taken into custody nearby, police said.
The two officers involved are white; the teen is black. The boy was in critical but stable condition at a hospital; he was conscious and able to speak. Dotson said witnesses told police they heard the pursuing officers identify themselves as police and order the teen to get down.
“A 14-year-old with a gun I think really goes to the conversation about the epidemic of violence that we have in our community,” Dotson told reporters. “That a 14-year-old has access to a gun or feels the need to have a gun, and certainly when officers approach, running or pointing that gun at officers, it does nobody in the community any good.”
Police found the teen’s semiautomatic pistol at the scene and were looking for the shell casing in the vacant lot, Dotson said. The gun had a defaced serial number, according to police.
Overgrown areas with knee-high weeds made the search for evidence difficult, police said. On Monday morning, city forestry workers were cutting weeds around two homes in the 5000 block of Davison Avenue, near Walbridge Elementary, to make the search easier.
Officers planned to bring in metal detectors and a dog trained to pick up the scent of gunpowder to help locate shell casings and other possible evidence. They placed yellow evidence markers on the ground, and were raking up grass clippings and searching through them by hand.
The chief said officers were not wearing body cameras, and there is no dashboard or body camera recording of the shooting. St. Louis police officers do not have body cameras, although some higher-ranking officers participated in a pilot program using the equipment starting last year.
A witness to the incident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation, said two young men or boys were on the street when a police cruiser drove past. The person said it didn’t seem like the police were pulling up quickly on the two people, but “they did kind of slow down and look at him.”
One of the boys ran, and officers got out of the car to chase him. He was holding his side like he had a gun, the witness said.
The boy, who the witness described as almost 6 feet tall, ran past the elementary school and toward a vacant lot. He then fired at officers, who took cover and returned fire, the person said.
Dotson said the 14-year-old who was shot was reportedly out with an acquaintance Sunday morning, and police were searching for the acquaintance.
An estimated 50 people gathered in a couple of groups near the shooting scene Sunday, some already skeptical of the police account of the incident.
Cassandra Barton was among a group of people near the scene, with some yelling that the police were lying about the shooting.
“They need them body cameras,” said Barton, who did not see the shooting but whose mother lives on the block where it occurred. “Then they wouldn’t have this problem.”
St. Louis Alderman Chris Carter, who represents the ward where the shooting occurred, said the incident speaks to the need for body cameras. “People are just tired of the police shootings,” Carter said.
People have a right to ask questions, Dotson said, and he spoke with people who gathered near the scene Sunday morning.
“In the world that we live in now, people are skeptical,” he said. “I have to do everything, and I hope my officers do everything they can, to make sure the community has confidence in the police department.”
Dotson said police were looking for video footage of the area, which could include a camera on the Walbridge school property. He also expressed support for officer body cameras, noting a proposal from Missouri Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, that could help pay for the equipment. Some police sergeants wore the cameras in the pilot program that began late last year, but the department is still evaluating a larger body camera program.
“In this day and age, if Sam Dotson were a young police officer, I would certainly want to wear a body camera every day,” the police chief said.
One officer involved in the shooting is a 40-year-old man with nine years as an officer. The other is a 31-year-old man with eight years.