ST. LOUIS, MO - A retired St. Louis police officer was gunned down just south of Tower Grove Park Monday morning and police are investigating to see if two juveniles and an adult male are responsible. The former officer has been identified as retired Sergeant Ralph E. Harper, 67.
During a news conference, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief John Hayden became emotional. He personally knew the man who was killed.
Choking back tears the chief said, “This is very challenging…very challenging time.”
St. Louis Metropolitan Police say the shooting took place around 7:30 a.m. in the 3100 block of Lackland Avenue. Harper was parking his car when he was confronted by a gunman. The former officer and the gunmen exchanged several shots.
Alex Garner heard the shooting. He said, “I heard what sound like several. It started out as one then there were several more.”
At first, he wasn’t sure he heard gunshots or something else, minutes later it became all too clear.
“Five or ten minutes later, there was endless sirens."
Harper was able to call for help and was rushed to the hospital. He later died at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Police are looking at the possibility it was an attempted robbery that turned violent.
Around the same time, police said a juvenile suffering a gunshot wound to his wrist was dropped off at the hospital by a dark green SUV. Police began pursuing it and the SUV crashed into a home on a street very close to Jefferson and Interstate 44. No one was hurt. Another juvenile male and an adult male were taken into custody. Police said the SUV the two were riding in had been stolen from Olivette.
The shooting left residents in the neighborhood shaken.
Lindsay Dickes said, “I’m going to be more hyper-vigilant. I think we all are.”
Sgt. Ralph Harper came from an esteemed police family. He served on the police force for 33 years. He was the oldest of four brothers who were also retired police, although one had returned to the force in a civilian position. The late father of the four brothers was a police captain.
At the St. Louis Police Officers Association, people prepared food for the family and friends so folks could gather and console each other.
Jeff Roorda is business manager for the organization, said, “Just a very nice gentleman, very well liked. This is a shock to the entire organization.”
Chief Hayden added, “This is very close to home because I knew the Sergeant personally and we are all mourning together.”
Officers who knew Ralph Harper said he was a great guy, very funny, and had a great spirit that lifted others.