EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (KMOV) – The man who police say stole and crashed an East St. Louis police cruiser that killed a woman has been charged.
According to St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly, Ricky Raper, 42, is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle and unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle.
Police say on Wednesday morning Raper refused to pay his Metro bus fare at a stop in East St. Louis near 83rd and State streets. Officers responded to the scene to address the issue. They said Raper was cooperative and did not seem dangerous when they arrived.
Deputies were able to remove Raper from the bus, but when they did, he ran to an East St. Louis cruiser near the rear of the bus and got into the driver seat. According to reports, once in the car, Raper grabbed the radio and yelled "I need a drink" before speeding off.
Assistant Chief Ronald Ike says the officers are allowed to leave their cars running, but it must be secured.
"What I can say is that it's not against the law to leave your car running," he said. "He probably should have secured it though."
A few blocks away, Raper crashed into two cars stopped at the intersection of 70th and State streets. Authorities said, before the crash, the suspect reached speeds up to 100 mph. The impact sent one of the vehicles into a utility pole and the other into some trees. A woman inside the car that struck the utility pole was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It was a high-impact crash. I’ve been on the job for 25 years and that’s one of the worst crashes I’ve seen as far as one vehicle striking another vehicle,” said Illinois State Police Lt. Dave Wasmuth.
The victim was later identified as Maxsimillion Quarles-Gaston, 41, from Belleville, Illinois. According to authorities, Gaston and her husband recently returned home from their honeymoon. Officials said Gaston was only two miles from work when the crash happened.
The driver inside the other vehicle was transported to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Raper was taken to SLU Hospital in unknown condition. Police said they believed alcohol or drugs were a factor.
Officers stood watch at the hospital because, at the time, Raper had not been charged. Without being charged, Raper could have left the hospital following treatment. Authorities wanted to be there when he was released so they could take him into custody.
Gatson's uncle said the whole incident is an example of a changing society.
"I think the problem is, we have lost respect for life, humanity and the law," said Jerry Quarles. However, he added that Gaston would also want to stress compassion.
"She has a heart full of compassion for any and everybody," he said. "I'm pretty sure she would have embraced this young man's family."
Raper is being held on $1,000,000 bond at the St. Clair County Jail and could face a maximum of 82 years in prison.