July 24, 2014

Belleville man charged with two felonies in West Main Street shooting

A Belleville man has been charged in connection with a shooting Monday on West Main Street.

Leon J. Venson Jr., 22, of the 2100 block of Scheel Street, was charged Thursday by St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly with aggravated battery of a firearm, a Class X felony, and aggravated discharge of a firearm, a Class 1 felony. He is in the St. Clair County Jail on $250,000 bail.

Belleville Police Department Detective Sgt. Mark Heffernan said police believe Venson did not act alone and they're searching for additional suspects.

"We've got a lot of good leads that we're following regarding the other people involved," Heffernan said. "We feel positive about the progress of the case."

Heffernan said police could not release any information about how many other suspects they're looking for or other details because the investigation is still ongoing.

The victim was shot in the leg and taken to a local hospital, but his wounds were not considered life-threatening. His name has not been released.

Police did say that, while detectives believe members of the group which was shot at were intentionally targeted by the attackers, they don't believe the person shot was the intended target.

The shooting happened at about 1:30 Monday on the parking lot of an apartment building at 7701 W. Main Street. A group of men got into a car and were getting ready to leave when, according to neighbors who witnessed the crime, the suspects arrived and started shooting.

Witnesses couldn't say if more than one person fired a weapon. But they said, according to the sound of the shots, that they believe at least two different guns were fired. The attack left the targets' car riddled with bullet holes. But only one person was hit by gunfire and he had a wound that was not life-threatening.

Neighbors said the apartment building has been the source of numerous nuisance-type problems including reports of loud music and arguments. Two neighbors said they've called police and the city's housing department numerous times about the apartment building which is owned by a person who lives in Florissant, Mo., who could not be reached for comment. But Heffernan said this is the first time the complaints involved violence.

The area where the shooting happened is near 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.

Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at or call 239-2626.

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