Crime

July 22, 2014

Belleville residents want crackdown on crime after shooting suspect arrested

Police have arrested a male suspect in connection to a Monday afternoon shooting at an apartment complex on the west end.

Detective Sgt. Mark Heffernan said police were not ready to release the identity of the suspect because he has not been charged.

Heffernan said police are still looking for other suspects involved in the shooting. He said Tuesday that they were chasing down a number of leads in a "very active" investigation.

The shooting happened about 1:15 p.m. at an apartment building at 7701 W. Main St. The victim, a male, was taken to a local hospital with wounds that were not believed to be life-threatening. He was conscious and able to talk to police.

Neighbors of the apartment complex said Tuesday they're pushing for the city to clean up what they say has been a trouble spot for more than a decade, complete with fights, loud music, loitering and drug deals.

Roger Wigginton, owner of Don Rodgers Ltd. at 6727 W. Main St., said he warned police four hours before gunfire rang out that things were getting rough around the apartment building and if they didn't stop it, someone was going to get shot there.

"We need to shut down these chronic problem areas," said Wigginton, who pointed out the owner of the building does not live in Belleville. "We need to send the message to absentee landlords that this is it, guys. We're not going to take it anymore."

Wigginton said the apartment building is known for having large groups of people hanging out front at all hours of the day and night. Many of the troublemakers don't live at the complex, he said.

"I can't tell you how many times I have had the police and code enforcement people out there," Wigginton said. "They got rid of the basketball hoop and chased the people away for a while. But lately they've been back."

The owner of the building, according to St. Clair County Treasurer's Department records, is Kim Trong Arayahoang of Florissant, Mo.

Arayahoang could not be reached for comment.

Angela Hutchison, who owns a business across West Main Street from the apartment, said she has frequently called police to the area because of problems there.

"I called 9-1-1 Monday and I am going to keep calling the police as many times as it takes," Hutchison said.

Neighbors, including other business people, reported Monday hearing 10-15 shots fired at the apartment building. According to witnesses, three or four men were sitting in a car in the parking lot when another group approached and unloaded two guns into the parked vehicle. One witness said he could tell it was two guns because there were two distinctive reports and it sounded like the guns were fired one after the other instead of at the same time.

The car was riddled with bullet holes. Wigginton said it likely saved the lives of the people inside.

"If it would have been a couple of minutes earlier and the guys were standing in the parking lot instead of sitting in the car, it might have been a whole different story," Wigginton said.

Wigginton said the latest trouble will be the subject of a meeting of the West Belleville Promotional Committee at 8 a.m. Friday at the Lindenwood University-Belleville Welcome Center. Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay and St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson are expected to speak to the members.

Wigginton invited concerned area residents to come to the meeting to ask questions or talk about their issues with crime and safety on the west end.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at swuerz@bnd.com or call 239-2626.

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