For the second time since classes resumed at public schools in St. Louis this month, grief counselors will be on hand at an elementary school on Monday to comfort friends of 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson, a third-grader gunned down while standing in front of a restaurant with relatives following a football game.
Since April, nine children under the age of 17 have been killed by gun violence in the city of St. Louis, and authorities say no one has been charged in any of the slayings.
“We are all at risk,” a frustrated St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said at a news conference on Saturday. “If you are as outraged as I am … please help.”
Saying the child killings have reached a point of “urgency,” Krewson announced a $25,000 CrimeStoppers reward for information leading to an arrest in any of the unsolved cases.
“The message now for these shooters is when you engage in this type of violent behavior, there will be a significant incentive for people to give us information to lead to your arrest,” Krewson said.
But Lisa Pisciotta, executive director of St. Louis Regional CrimeStoppers, said the reward money will only be available until Sept. 1, and encouraged people with information on any of the case to contact police immediately, adding that all tips will be kept anonymous.
“It expresses the urgency of the situation,” Krewson said of the time limit put on the reward.
Less than 24 hours after Krewson announced the reward, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department homicide investigators responded to the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy. The victim, whose name was not immediately released, was discovered on the southeast side of the city at 6 a.m. on Sunday with a bullet wound to the head.
Police said no arrests have been made.
The fatal shooting came about 35 hours after Jurnee Thompson was shot in the head and killed on the northeast side of the city after she attended the football jamboree, the city’s annual kickoff to the high school football season, police said.
St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden said Jurnee had attended the jamboree at Soldan High School and was waiting for a food order with her two teenage cousins outside a restaurant when gunfire rang out.
Hayden said the mortally wounded little girl, who had just started the third grade at Herzog Elementary School in the city, was taken to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she died. Her two cousins, both 16, were also wounded in the shooting, as well as a 64-year-old woman.
The chief said the shooting erupted after police were called to the football jamboree to quell several fights that broke out.
He said a contingent of police officers had been in the area for 30 to 45 minutes clearing the crowd when they heard gunfire and found the girl and the three other victims shot.
“Of course the little girl wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Hayden said. “She was with family when this occurred and shots rang out.”
St. Louis Schools Superintendent Kelvin Adams said counselors will be at Herzog Elementary school on Monday to provide support for classmates and teacher who knew the girl.
“I don’t know that there are words to explain how difficult it is for the families that are hurting, and the impact this has on the community,” Adams told reporters on Saturday.
The girl’s death came just 12 days after 7-year-old Xavier Usanga was killed by a stray bullet while playing near his St. Louis home. Xavier was slain a day before he was to start the second grade at Clay Elementary School in St. Louis.
A funeral for Xavier was held on Saturday.
“I miss your smile, your laugh, your hair. I couldn’t believe that you were gone. Why would someone take your life away?” Xavier’s 10-year-old sister, Trinity Usanga, told mourners who packed her brother’s funeral at a St. Louis Catholic church, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.
Federal authorities said in court earlier this month that a 23-year-old man, who was arrested and charged with stealing $50,000 from an armored car company he worked for, had confessed to firing the shots that killed Xavier. St. Louis police continue to investigate the killing, but state prosecutors have yet to charge him in the homicide.
On Saturday, Chief Hayden read off a list of other fatal shootings of children that have yet to be solved and pleaded with the public to come forward with information.
He said it was time for people in the community to be less concerned about retaliation for coming forward with information to police and more concerned about “what would happen to little children if you don’t.”
Hayden said other unsolved homicides of children include the April 30 killing of 2-year-old Kayden Johnson and his 18-year-old mother, Trina’ty Riley, who were shot to death while hiding in a closet of their home after an intruder broke in.
He said Kennedi Powell, 3, was shot to death on June 9 when she was standing on a sidewalk near her father’s car with other children and a gunman drove up in a vehicle and opened fire.
Four other children and three adults were injured in the incident. No arrests have been made.
Eddie Hill IV, 10, was killed in another drive-by shooting on July 19 as he stood on the front porch of his home with his father, Hayden said. No arrests have been made.
Other youngsters killed by gun violence were Kristina Curry, 16, who was found shot to death in the parking lot of a high school on May 23; Derrel Williams, 15, who died on June 25 after being discovered shot on a street; and Jashon Johnson, 16, was found shot multiple times on a street on June 8.
“In each of these cases, police investigators know that people were at or near the scene of these homicides. Please help us find the shooters,” Jimmie Edwards, the St. Louis public safety director and a former juvenile court judge, said at Saturday’s news conference. “If you or someone else you know may be hiding a shooter, please turn them in. Your failure to turn in people that have committed these types of offenses may also cause you to be charged with a crime.”