ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – A retired St. Louis police sergeant who died after being shot near Tower Grove Park will be laid to rest Friday.
Sgt. Ralph Harper, 67, was parking his car along the 3100 block of Lackland Avenue when he was approached by a gunman around 7:30 a.m. Monday. Harper and the gunman exchanged fire before the gunman fled in a black SUV.
Harper was taken to Barnes Jewish Hospital and was "unconscious and barely breathing" while being transported to the hospital, according to police. During a press conference around 10 a.m., Police Chief John Hayden said Harper had died.
The funeral for Sgt. Harper will begin at 10 a.m. at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church on Oregon Avenue. Following the mass, there will be a procession to the Resurrection Cemetery in St. Louis County.
“This is very close to home because I knew the sergeant personally and we all are mourning together,” Chief Hayden said.
During the press conference, Chief Hayden said a juvenile was dropped off at the hospital by a black SUV shortly after the shooting, suffering from a gunshot wound and police are working to determine whether it is associated with the retired officer’s fatal shooting.
“There was a vehicle that dropped this person off. There are also persons that we are looking at to see if there’s a connection between that vehicle and this incident,” he said.
Chief Hayden said they are trying to piece together a potential motive but they are investigating it as a potential robbery at the moment. He also said the incident happened on the street after Harper let his wife out of the car.
“We know there was a confrontation, there was an exchange of gunfire,” Chief Hayden said. “Right now we’re trying to piece together all of the specifics of what type of incident this was.”
Two suspects were taken into custody after a black SUV believed to be connected with the shooting was found in the area of Jefferson south of Interstate 44 where it struck a building about three hours after the shooting.
The two occupants of that vehicle were a juvenile male and an adult male.
Further investigation revealed the SUV was stolen from Olivette.
Harper was on the force for 35 years and had been retired for 10 years, according to Chief Hayden. He reportedly comes for a law enforcement family that has over 200 years of combined service. His brothers also worked for the St. Louis police department.
“He was a very good person, a very wonderful personality, very warm and compassionate person,” said Chief Hayden. “It affects you a little differently when you know the person involved personally. I apologize for my emotions but at the same time I did know him personally and I still am close with the family members.”