An East St. Louis police officer captured a barrage of New Year’s Eve gunfire on cell phone video while waiting for backup to investigate.
That wasn’t usual, said Chief Jerry Simon. But the sound of the gunfire was different.
“It can almost sound like a war zone down here on New Year’s Eve,” Simon said. “It was one of many reports of shots fired that night.”
Officers investigating the shots fired discovered a cache of weapons found on a nearby front porch. They included a semi-automatic weapon, possibly equipped with a bump stock, three handguns, large ammunition magazines and numerous rounds of ammunition.
A bump stock uses a rifle’s natural firing physics to increase its bullet output. It’s an after-market gun modifications that uses a semi-automatic rifle’s recoil to bounce its stock back and forth off of the shooter’s shoulder and recock the gun after each round fired, allowing a clip to be emptied more quickly.
“This is what we deal with. Sometimes were feel we are outgunned. We have some great officers down here who are doing great work, but they face some challenges,” Simon said.
The officer was patrolling at midnight on New Year’s Eve in the 2300 block of Ridge Avenue, Simon said. There was a power outage in the area at the time, Simon said. The officer heard the gunfire. While waiting for backup before entering the area, he took out his cellphone and recorded the bursts of gunfire.
The officers arrived in front of the home and saw 10 men who went into the house upon seeing the police, Simon said. They ran through the house and fled on foot down the alley. On the front porch, officers found the guns.
Simon said he believed the gunfire was “mostly celebratory.”
Simon, 50, became chief in September. He’s a 23-year veteran of the department who served on federal task forces with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshal’s Fugitive Task Force.
A lack of manpower leaves East St. Louis police searching for resources to combat crime, Simon said when he took office.
“There is simply insufficient manpower for crime deterrence in East St. Louis,” said St. Clair County States Attorney Brendan Kelly, who said he files hundreds of gun cases brought by East St. Louis police every year.
East St. Louis police received 1,500 calls for shots fired last year, Simon said.
“This is what the officers and citizens have to deal with,” Kelly said. “There is not enough resources.”
The site of the weapons find was two blocks from where 16-year-old Anquan Palmer’s body was found in a bullet-riddled Ford Mustang in the early morning hours of Dec. 7. The teenager was shot multiple times. His killing remains unsolved.