ST. LOUIS, MO. (KPLR) - The city of St. Louis is on pace to shatter the recent record for number of shootings involving police officers in a year. In the past decade, there have never been more than fifteen such incidents in a calendar year. There have already been thirteen suspects shot by police this year, with five months still to go. Police say all the shootings were justified by the actions of the suspects.
Why this is happening is unclear. Police are hesitant to blame the summer heat wave, pointing out that four of the incidents occurred this past January.
“I’m not sure what causes people to act the way they do,” Captain Michael Sack of the St. Louis Police told us in an interview Thursday. “The only way to bring lethal force on from an officer is to put them in fear for their life. What would cause individuals to do that is beyond me.”
The victim of a home invasion that led to one of those shootings is equally baffled. He asked us not to identify him, but his home on Famous Avenue in south city was robbed July 10th.
“All I remember is I woke up to my bedroom door being kicked open,” the man said. “And there were three people there. Two guns in my face.”
He says he was pistol whipped and dragged through his house by the men, who were looking for money.
When there was no more to be found, “They duct taped my wrists, my ankles together, my eyes, my mouth and laid me on the ground and said if I moved they’d kill me.”
Then they ran outside. Police were responding and there was a shootout in the back yard. Two of the suspects fired at cops, and two officers fired back, killing one of them.
The man we spoke to believes he’s fortunate. He says if they shot at police, there’s no reason they wouldn’t have shot at him moments earlier.
“No problem they would have. I don’t know why they didn’t. I guess I must have had an angel or something looking over me.”
Why does he think so many criminals are taking the violence to the next level?
“I think it’s just people not getting raised right. Too much violence in their life.”
The most recent officer involved shooting came Tuesday near Osage and Oregon in south city. It was the sixth in twenty-eight days. A man running from a traffic stop allegedly pointed his pistol at police and was shot.
It led to Stefan Payne, who lives three doors down, getting a call from his son.
“He told me dad, please come home because there were six or seven gunshots and the police were running through the yard.”
He says people’s attitude toward police and each other have changed over the years.
“When I was growing up it was pretty cool. You didn’t have no drive by shootings. People would be in a little scuffle and be playing basketball in the school yard the next day. I guess it’s a sign of the times.”
As for the numbers, they aren’t encouraging for the rest of the year. August and December are statistically two of the three most violent months for officers taking on hostile attackers. But Sack says all they can do is be prepared to deal with whatever comes.
He says of his officers, “They have to understand when they come into work they come into work they strap on body armor and they holster a sidearm, and they have to understand they may need both of those.”