ST. LOUIS -- A top St. Louis law enforcement official has sparked outrage by remarking that not all of the area children who have been killed by guns this year were innocent victims.
While the children who were under 10 years old were innocent victims, some of the older slain children had been linked to illegal activity, St. Louis Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards said Thursday at an aldermanic committee meeting, expounding on what he said during an Oct. 3 interview on St. Louis Public Radio station KWMU's "St. Louis on the Air," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
About two dozen children have died in gun violence this year in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and about half of the shootings happened in the city of St. Louis.
"The purpose here is not to demonize anyone; the facts are the facts," Edwards told the Public Safety Committee.
Edwards said a 15-year-old was found dead one morning "with an automatic weapon on his person with an extended ammunition magazine, $5,000 in cash and a large quantity of drugs." He said a 16 shooting victim was on the police department's carjacking offender list and was apparently shot in the crossfire of a gun battle between two other 16-year-olds.
He also said two victims over the age of 10 are believed to have committed suicide.
Thirteen organizations issued a joint statement this week saying, "this kind of demonization of our children is shocking and unacceptable." The groups include ArchCity Defenders and the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.
Edwards, who is black, said Thursday without referring directly to the groups' statement that "I know and I agree there are many social and societal reasons that lead our children to unfortunate situations and we must do more than police on the back end."
The joint statement also called on Edwards' boss, Mayor Lyda Krewson, to publicly condemn his comments and for the Board of Aldermen to censure Edwards. But Krewson's chief of staff, Steve Conway, on Thursday strongly defended Edwards.
"Jimmie has an incredible reputation of working with juveniles within the justice system and within our community," Conway said. "His track record of improving children's lives in St. Louis is unmatched by anyone."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com