Metro-East News

‘All of us were angry,’ train rider recalls watching kitten die

Suspect in custody after killing cat at MetroLink station

St. Clair County Sheriff's Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren talks about the charges against Decalos Edwards Johnson-Foston.
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St. Clair County Sheriff's Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren talks about the charges against Decalos Edwards Johnson-Foston.

An extreme act of violence against a kitten at a metro-east MetroLink station Friday has residents rattled, including one rider who takes the train to work every day.

Michael Hesse, a Washington University employee and Belleville resident, said he was sitting on the train around 7 a.m. when the incident began at the Belleville MetroLink station.

While sitting about a foot away from Decalos Edwards Johnson-Foston, later identified by police, Hesse said a MetroLink security guard came over and asked Johnson-Foston to exit the train.

Hesse recalled Johnson-Foston asking the guard something along the lines of how he was supposed to ride the train with the kitten.

“Then he grabbed the kitten resting on his shoulder from inside the train and threw it on the platform,” Hesse said. “That caused a commotion among us witnessing the whole thing.”

Three or four other people were in the train car with him, Hesse said.

“He walked over to the kitten and stomped it once. I stood up and walked to the doors to the train which were about to close — I could see the cat going into convulsions. He walked off, and the guard walked off in a different direction.”

Hesse said he later learned the guard went to alert police.

“All of us were angry at the individual who did this, because it was a senseless act of violence toward this animal,” Hesse said. “It was a newborn kitten — one of the women on the train even said she would take the cat.”

In a press conference Monday morning, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Bruce Fleshren said security guards notified police shortly after 7 a.m. to report the encounter with the 23-year-old St. Louis man that ended with the kitten’s death.

“Unfortunately, the kitten was killed and the security officer was unable to stop this as it happened so quickly in front of him, there was nothing he could do to prevent the injury,” Fleshren said. “The suspect boarded a train for the College Station and continued on the bus route and was stopped by deputies at the bus station and was taken into custody.”

Fleshren said Johnson-Foston was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, a class 4 felony. On Friday morning, he remained in custody at the St. Clair County jail on a $75,000 bail.

“I can’t really speculate to what (Johnson-Foston’s) mental health is, I mean obviously something senseless like this is hard to comprehend at times — what would make somebody do this or why they would do this,” Fleshren said.

He said investigators are working on getting surveillance footage that should show the incident. They do not at this point know where the kitten was picked up from or how long he had the kitten with him.

“We’ve not had an animal cruelty case in a while — that I can recall,” the captain said. “Certainly nothing like this where someone just blatantly kills an animal in front of people.”

Fleshren said investigators are asking witnesses who have not spoken with police to call 618-825-3204.

“It’s unfortunate for anyone to have had to see it,” Fleshren added.

Johnson-Foston has no prior criminal history in Illinois; however, Fleshren said he was convicted of robbery in Missouri.

“Historically — obviously — there’s some research done that animal abuse does lead to other crimes of violence. Is that a scenario here? I don’t know. You know, we don’t know his full background,” Fleshren said.

Fleshren said Johnson-Foston is also alleged to have taken money from a wallet that went missing on the bus boarded after the incident. No charges have been filed in connection to that report, Fleshren said.

“Is there an anger/violence issue to this? That’s to be determined,” the captain said.