August 6, 2014

Chaos at 29th and State: Police shoot two after fugitive strikes pedestrians

Two pedestrians were hit by a car as police were trying to stop a fugitive, and officers opened fire and shot the fugitive and a passenger Wednesday afternoon.

The fugitive tried to flee at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday from the parking lot of the Big C Market and Grill at 29th and State streets, backing into two young men and hitting a utility pole.

The suspect then went forward, squeezing between parked cars and hitting several, then went toward some of at least five East St. Louis police officers, Illinois State Police Capt. Jim Morissey said.

The suspect had an outstanding warrant for a parole violation in Kentucky, East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore said. He said three East St. Louis patrol cars were hit by the suspect who then was heading toward officers.

At least two officers fired into the car to stop it from hitting them, wounding the fugitive and a passenger, Morissey said. The car continued several blocks down the street, and the wounded passenger got out and tried to run.

Police pulled the wounded fugitive from the car and caught the wounded passenger as he tried to flee on foot. The suspect and passenger were not identified, were taken to an area hospital, but their wounds were not considered life threatening, Floore said.

Both struck pedestrians were released from the hospital by late Wednesday afternoon.

Morissey said his agency is investigating because police officers were involved, and are using the market's surveillance footage to piece together the mayhem. He said five or six officers can be seen on the video, but more may have been out of the camera's view.

Sheena Johnson, of Centreville, was at the store with her three children getting drinks and treats when the shooting broke out.

"I was in the store and the (store clerk) was watching it all on the camera. He told us to run toward the back of the store and we heard gunshots," Johnson said. "It was more than 20 shots."

Morissey said she was not exaggerating about the number of shots.

Floore said his department received information that the man wanted by the U.S. Marshal Service for crimes in Kentucky was in East St. Louis. An officer recognized the man at the convenience store.

"When officers attempted to stop the vehicle, the man attempted to flee. The officers shot at the car in an attempt to stop it and shot the two people in the car," Floore said.

The suspect was driving a white Dodge Stratus with Illinois plates.

Seven Illinois State Police officers and crime scene investigators were at the scene, which is near Officer Elementary School. Shell casings were strewn on the ground.

Floore said the officers were not hurt. None was placed on administrative leave because he said they were reacting to a threat of deadly force.

Johnson and her children were stuck at the store several hours after the shooting because their car could not be moved as police reconstructed the events, marking shell casings and bullet holes. Police were still at the store, which remained closed, at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.

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