15-year-old boy sent home with parents after parking lot gunfight, found with fully automatic handgun

A spokesperson for the 22nd Circuit Court said it is looking into the conversation had between police and Juvenile Courts.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 8:50 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- Three juveniles, including one allegedly armed with a fully automatic handgun, were released to their parents after running from St. Louis Police following a gunfight on Saturday night.

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, officers were investigating reports of several car break-ins in the parking lot at the City Foundry when they heard gunshots coming from nearby. Police said a white Honda Accord was fleeing westbound on Foundry Way before heading southbound on Vandeventer. According to police, a passenger of the Honda leaned over the roof of the car and began firing several rounds from a rifle in the direction of three juvenile boys and the two officers.

Moments later, the window of a vehicle the officers were standing near shattered and one officer heard several rounds “whiz past their right ear.” When the Honda left the scene, police said the three juveniles began running through the parking lot away from officers, who were able to catch them and take them into custody.

Police said a 15-year-old boy was found with a Glock 29 equipped with an auto sear, making the gun fully automatic. A 16-year-old boy was in possession of a stolen Glock 19.

Police contacted Juvenile Court, which advised officers to release the juveniles to their parents.

“It is scary,” said Tina Pihl, the 17th Ward Alderwoman. “When I read that article and saw what was happening, I was frightened.”

Both City Foundry and The Armory sit in Pihl’s ward, and she is encouraging stakeholders to come to the table to tackle the rising crime problem, particularly car break-ins.

“This is a public safety issue, and we need to solve these one by one, but we need to bring the stakeholders together,” she said. “I want to see the mayor’s office, the police department, my fellow aldermen and alderwomen and community members.”

Earlier this month, the ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office warned of a dramatic rise in illegally modified handguns. The City of St. Louis reports a 500 percent increase in the black market devices that are attached to semi-automatic weapons, turning them fully automatic.

At the time, U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming said her office is aggressively prosecuting people found in possession of these illegal devices.

“For those that plan to use a firearm equipped with one of these devices when they’re out selling drugs or committing a crime of violence as defined under the law, you’re going to be looking at a mandatory minimum,” said Fleming. “That’s not less than 30 years in prison.”

However, no federal law applies to the 15-year-old accused of being in possession of such a weapon, a spokesperson for her office said.

“Right now we as prosecutors have no input on whether or not a juvenile should be considered for certification to be tried as an adult,” said Tim Lohmar, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney. “I think that’s a legislative change that could be enacted that would give us some ability to be proactive.”

According to Missouri’s Juvenile Justice Guidelines and Recommended Practices, “in most circumstances, the appropriate course of action will be to release the juvenile to the parent, guardian, custodian or suitable adult.”

However, it also says “a juvenile can be detained only if he/she is a danger to the community or if there is a likelihood said juvenile will fail to appear for a subsequent hearing.”

Further, an assessment form provided by the state weighs numerous factors that correspond with a score. According to the form, a score of 15 or higher should result in detention, while a score from 1-9 indicates release. A person who scores 10-14 is recommended for a detention alternative.

Juvenile assessment form
Juvenile assessment form(Juvenile Court)

The form indicates “unlawful felony possession or use of firearm or explosive device” is scored a 15. A spokesperson for the 22nd Circuit Court said it is looking into the conversation between law enforcement and The Juvenile Court Saturday night that resulted in the release of the three juveniles.

It did not indicate if an updated assessment form is being used by those in the city’s juvenile court.

Monte Chamber, a spokesperson for the Public Safety Department in St. Louis City, said in a statement to News 4:

“SLMPD officers followed longstanding precedent when calling the Family Court’s intake staff to report apprehended juveniles, just as the Family Court’s intake staff followed longstanding precedent by telling officers to release them to their parents. Saturday’s incident emphasizes the need to formalize the new communication and intake procedures discussed by the Court and SLMPD in recent weeks. The City first reached out to the 22nd Circuit Court last year to discuss gaps in communication and looks forward to formalizing an official procedure in the days ahead to prevent miscommunication and ensure better outcomes.

“The firearms were still seized as evidence, an incident report was still prepared, and a referral will be made with the Family Court, meaning the juveniles may still face criminal charges.”

As of Monday evening, police have not yet presented charges against the three juveniles.