The city of St. Louis has faced one of its deadliest summers after the lives of at least 13 Black children and teens have been claimed by gun violence since April. Now, rewards totaling $100,000 have been offered to try to solve the mysteries surrounding the children’s deaths.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the first death came when a 2-year-old, Kayden Johnson was shot and killed as he lay in bed next to his mother, 18-year-old Trina’ty Riley, who was also fatally shot. Their bodies were discovered on April 30.
Since then there have been 12 other reported deaths related to guns. The lastest came on August 25 when 15-year-old Sentonio Cox was found shot in the head by officers who responded to a missing person report.
Despite the shootings, BuzzFeed News reported only one suspect has been arrested. Because of that, the officials are offering four $25,000 rewards for information on a child under 10 who was shot and killed through Sept. 1. Mayor Lyda Krewson announced the offer at a news conference Saturday.
“This is urgent,” Krewson said to those gathered at the August 24 news conference held at the St. Louis police headquarters.”Right now we hope we that we will be able to get information to police today, tomorrow, Monday.”
Noting the short window “expresses the urgency of the situation,” she also explained how “reckless gun violence” led to the death of 8-year-old Jurnee Thompson the day before the press conference occurred. The child was with her family at Harold’s Chop Suey waiting for their order after leaving a football game that was vacated once a fight broke out.
“We are all at risk when these suspects remain on the street,” the mayor said. “If you are as outraged as I am … please help.”
Since her inauguration in 2017, Krewson has worked to get serious about sweeping up crime and violence in the city, where 46 percent of the residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Local police have joined forces with federal agents to tackle gun crimes, the Post-Dispatch reported. And Krewson has worked to hire more police officers — including enlisting the State Highway Patrol for assistance. Yet despite her efforts and those from St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden to track down “nests” of criminal activity, as well as adding officers to patrol affected areas, the shootings have not simmered down. In fact, this is on track to become the worst summer in years for shooting deaths in the city.
And race cannot be erased from the story, as Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Maynard Institute, told BuzzFeed.
“When looking at coverage of issues like gun violence, we can’t ignore the systemic issues that disproportionately affect black and brown people,” said Reynolds, who is part of the Oakland, California-based nonprofit that promotes news media diversity. Pointing to the “disproportionate amounts of gun violence in communities” like St. Louis, he wondered, “How would this series of horrific shootings of children and teens be covered by journalists if this violence happened in a white, middle class neighborhood?
“It would be cast, as it should be, as a public health crisis and a system in need of structural change,” he said.