GREEN PARK • A St. Louis County police officer answering a disturbance call here before dawn Thursday was shot to death by a teenager who was then critically wounded by a backup officer’s return fire.
Officer Blake Snyder, 33, was hit once in the chin and was pronounced dead at St. Anthony’s Medical Center. Police Chief Jon Belmar said: “It was an immediately fatal wound.”
Trenton Forster, 18, of south St. Louis County, was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action, with bail set at $1 million. Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said Forster was expected to survive despite being hit by at least four or five shots.
McCulloch said Forster’s only criminal past appears to be a felony marijuana charge that, according to court documents, was brought by the same officer who shot him.
Belmar said he had not drawn a connection.
The officers were dispatched about 5 a.m. to a home in the 10700 block of Arno Drive in the small city of Green Park, which is northwest of the South County Center mall. Forster allegedly had been beating on the door.
Sgt. Shawn McGuire said Forster had a relationship with a girl who lived there.
Snyder approached Forster, by then sitting in a car parked outside, and was shot “almost immediately,” officials said. The second officer, who arrived separately, exchanged shots with Forster and was not hurt.
Charging documents say a witness saw the shooting and identified Forster as the gunman. Police recovered a pistol.
On Forster’s public Twitter account, he has written a lot about drugs — from marijuana to ecstasy — with harsh language and anti-police commentary.
In May, he wrote: “I want (expletive) the police carved into my grave.” In early September, he called the court system “twisted” and suggested he was “gonna have the last laugh.”
He also made recent references to owning a gun, writing in August that, “The compact .40 (caliber) send all my enemies to hell,” and, in May, “There’s no name on a bullet.”
He talks a lot about not feeling understood, and feeling worthless.
Police, court records and neighbors said Forster lives in the 9500 block of Sequoia Court, about a mile from the shooting scene. No one answered the door when a reporter visited Thursday.
But a woman who said she is Forster’s aunt disputed the address late Thursday. The woman, who declined to give her name, said she lives in the home with her son but that Forster lives elsewhere.
Neighbors said they have seen Forster playing basketball outside, and sometimes get rowdy with friends, but didn’t know much else about him.
Forster attended Lindbergh High School and was a junior when he withdrew in May, said district spokeswoman Beth Johnston. She could not provide details about his time there.
County police arrested Forster in November 2015 on a felony charge of possession of marijuana, according to court records. A caller at his home address had alerted police to drug activity and gave officers consent to search the dwelling.
Officers found a backpack containing three glass jars full of marijuana and “a large amount of U.S. currency.” Police said Forster admitted the cash was his and came from the sale of drugs. A settlement conference in his case was set for later this month.
‘Tremendous police officer’
Snyder, who lived in Edwardsville, had been with the department at least four years and was assigned to the Affton Southwest precinct. He leaves behind a wife and 2-year-old son.
The Backstoppers Inc., a nonprofit group that assists survivors of fallen St. Louis area first responders, already provided the family a check for $5,000, with a promise to do more.
In a press conference, Belmar called Snyder a “tremendous police officer” and said it was a “tough day” for his department.
Among public officials offering condolences was St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, whose statement said, in part, “This demonstrates the extreme danger that first responders face every day. Our police have my steadfast support, and I pledge to do everything I can to provide them with all the resources they need to ensure their safety.”
Police Officer Blake Snyder and wrestling star Esmond Ford are remembered in solemn events.
Snyder is the 10th county officer killed in the line of duty since the department’s inception in 1955. The most recent had been Sgt. Richard Weinhold, 44, shot to death on Halloween afternoon in 2000 at a disturbance call.
Forster apparently was in the driver’s seat of a car when Snyder pulled up, Belmar said, and the officer ordered him to show his hands. The man pulled a 9 mm pistol and fired before being struck by the other officer’s bullets. All three men are white.
Police said they were not looking for any other suspects.
Neither the officers nor their cars were equipped with cameras, Belmar said.
Jennifer Kunz, 56, who lives beside the home where the killing took place, said an older woman, her daughter and her 16-year-old granddaughter live there.
Nothing was amiss when Kunz walked her dog about 4:45 a.m., she said. But later, one of the women next door called her at work to say the girl’s boyfriend had been shot.
“I was shocked,” Kunz said. “People walk this neighborhood day and night, and nothing ever goes on around here.”
Shots and yelling
Vicki Englund, a former state representative and a current member of the Lindbergh School Board, lives kitty-corner from the shooting and heard the gunshots. “You think it’s a car backfiring,” she said. “What else could it be?”
She said she didn’t see what happened, but, “I heard a couple shots, then a pause, then I heard 10 or so in a row and someone yell, ‘Get back in the house,’ or, ‘Are you gonna get back in the house?’ in a very strong, controlled voice.” She added, “And then a few more shots.”
A woman who lives nearby said she’d seen the car where Forster had been sitting on Arno all night, and the night before.
Several houses from the scene, Karen Thevel was awakened by her daughter about 5:05 a.m., saying she thought she heard five or six shots, then two or three more.
“We moved here about a month or so ago and we began hearing about how there had been a recent increase in crime,” Thevel said. “My daughter got her wallet stolen from her car, and other cars had been broken into recently.
“I grew up in Oakville and I know this neighborhood; I couldn’t wait to move into here because the crime is like zero — at least until recently,” she said.
Jack Buck III, grandson of the famous late sportscaster, lives around the corner and three houses up from the scene and said he was awakened by the commotion. “It was an exchange of pop-pop, pop-pop-pop,” he said. “Maybe eight to 12 shots.”
Buck described Green Park as a small, middle-class community that was relatively free of crime until about a month ago. Last week, someone on a nearby street reported a burglary. And about four weeks ago, nearly every car on his street was broken into, he said.
Snyder’s death comes about three months after a Ballwin officer was shot and paralyzed. Officer Michael Flamion is being treated at a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado. He was shot July 8 while returning to his patrol car during a traffic stop on New Ballwin Road, police said. Antonio Taylor, 31, was charged in the shooting.
Denise Hollinshed, Joel Currier, Steve Giegerich, Ashley Jost and Joe Holleman of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.