July 21, 2014

One wounded as gunfire breaks out at Belleville apartment

A man was injured Monday afternoon when a rapid burst of gunfire sent residents of a west end apartment building and some neighbors fleeing for cover.

Belleville Police Department Detective Sgt. Mark Heffernan said there was one male victim who was shot "in the lower extremities." The injury did not appear to be life-threatening, Heffernan said.

"We still have no one in custody but we are hopeful that we will bring this to a quick and positive resolution," Heffernan said.

The victim, who was taken to a local hospital, was conscious and alert and able to talk to police, but Heffernan declined to comment on what the victim told police.

The shots rang out just before 1:30. An apartment building at 7701 West Main was surrounded with crime scene tape and with nine police vehicles lined up on the street in front of the building. Detectives were walking the area, questioning residents. The apartment building is across the West Main Street from Foley's Tavern.

A Belleville crime scene technician arrived at a home in the 100 block of 79th Street about 3:30 p.m. There were blood droplets on the front porch of the home. A woman who answered the door of the home declined to comment.

Angela Hutchison, who owns a nearby business, said she heard 10-15 shots that came in rapid succession. Other neighbors reporting hearing a similar number of shots and said that there were two distinct gunfire sounds, which seemed to indicate that more than one gun was being fired.

She didn't see the shooters. But Hutchison said she could see people fleeing in several different directions from the area where she heard the shots.

Behind a dumpster on the parking lot officers placed several yellow markers used to mark where evidence was found, presumably where shell casings were found on the ground. A car in the parking lot appeared to have several bullet holes in it.

The crime scene was "very active" on Monday afternoon, Heffernan said, with a number of witnesses being questioned by police.

At about 2:30 p.m., six police cars rushed two blocks down West Street near its intersection with 79th Street and police were seen interviewing people. According to police radio traffic, there was a report that a man who was bleeding was sitting on the steps of a home there.

Police put the man in the back of a squad car and drove away toward the west Belleville police station. Three other males, who appeared to be teenagers, were interviewed by police and then were allowed to leave the area on foot.

Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay would not comment about the details of the crime as he left the scene.

"It's too early in the investigation. It's still ongoing," Clay said. "It's unfortunate the way people settle their differences."

Neighbors said the apartment building has been the source of numerous nuisance-type problems including reports of loud music and arguments. But Heffernan said this is the first time the complaints involved violence.

This is the same area where Eric Gonzales, 19, was shot by a Belleville police officer on June 15, 2012. Gonzales and another man were walking down West Main Street, kicking passing cars and then tried to throw an ashtray through the front window of Foley's Tavern before police were called to the scene.

A cellphone video taken by a man mowing a lawn revealed the officers asked Gonzales 11 times to put down a knife he was holding and lie on the ground. Gonzales was shot by an officer when he refused to comply and moved toward them.

In the video, Gonzales repeatedly says, "I don't care if I die." He also says, "Kill me. What ... happens if I die? I die. Shoot me in the heart!"

The shooting was declared to be justified by St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly after an Illinois State Police investigation.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at or call 239-2626.

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