Breakdown in procedures allowed gun-wielding juveniles to go free

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Generic gun photo(Source: CNN/file)
Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:22 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A breakdown in procedures allowed juveniles involved in a gunfight Saturday to go home without being detained, the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court said.

Three juveniles, including one allegedly armed with a fully automatic handgun, were released to their parents after running from St. Louis Police following the gunfight near the City Foundry. 22nd Judicial Court Spokesperson Joel Currier said in a statement that the court later determined the St. Louis City Family Court’s intake staff and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department did not follow the outlined procedures for juveniles involved in a crime.

“The police did not bring them to juvenile court for detention,” Currier said in an email Tuesday. “No juvenile legal officer or judge was contacted regarding the incident.”

Currier said the intake officer and a police officer talked over the phone instead of having the juveniles taken to the juvenile court. None of the kids involved in the alleged crime have been brought to court for referral, detention, or charges, Currier said.

Public Safety Department Spokesperson Monte Chambers said in a statement to News 4 that there needs to be formalized communication and intake procedures.

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.

Monte Chambers, public safety department spokesperson

According to the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, officers were investigating reports of several car break-ins Saturday 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.

Two of the kids involved, ages 15 and 16, had guns. One was a Glock 29 equipped with an auto sear, making the gun fully automatic. The other was in possession of a stolen Glock 19.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently held a press conference on the rise in black market devices that are attached to semi-automatic weapons, turning them fully automatic. People found in possession of the devices can face decades in prison if charged and convicted.

Currier said once police present the juveniles to the court, a juvenile officer will review the evidence and assess their cases for possible detention.

The 22nd Judicial Court’s full statement reads as follows:

The 22nd Judicial Circuit has determined that procedures by the St. Louis City Family Court’s intake staff and the city police weren’t followed with regard to the youths held in connection with gunfire Saturday near the City Foundry. The police did not bring them to juvenile court for detention. No juvenile legal officer or judge was contacted regarding the incident.

Instead, a phone call occurred between the intake office and a police officer. The parties disagree as to the content of the conversation. As of today's date, none of the juveniles has been brought to St. Louis City Family Court for referral, detention or charges. Once police present the youths, a juvenile officer will review the evidence for legal sufficiency and assess them for detention pursuant to Missouri statutes and Supreme Court rules.

Joel Currier, chief communications officer, 22nd Judicial Court