Track star’s murder linked to brawl, other gun violence
Escalating violence after the still unsolved killing of former East St. Louis Flyers track star Roosevelt Davis will result in increased security at Tuesday night's graduation, according to East St. Louis District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver.
Following Davis' killing on April 14, Culver said, the school has seen increasing unrest, including a fight between 40 and 50 people before prom and a fight at the Southwestern Conference boys track and field meet.
After that meet, Culver said, a parent and a track athlete were followed home then threatened by men who brandished guns. Also, a house where some of the track athletes congregated after that meet was "shot up," Culver said. No one was injured.
"Ever since Roosevelt's murder, there has been increasing unrest and tension amongst our young adults. I want to ensure the safety of those attending graduation ceremony," Culver said.
He made the decision to ask law enforcement for extra security at the commencement ceremony, which is at the Clyde C. Jordan Stadium at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
East St. Louis Police, Illinois State troopers and St. Clair County Sheriff's deputies will provide additional security, by uniformed and undercover officers.
Police confirmed a fight at a May 8 track meet that ended the East St. Louis High School track team's season was related to the murder of former teammate Roosevelt Davis, Jr. Davis was shot on April 14 outside the County Line Quick Shop on Camp Jackson Road near Cahokia.
"In my professional opinion, I think it's all related," said Illinois State Police District 11 Commander Tim Tyler.
St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said though the Major Case Squad has disbanded, the investigation into Davis' death is ongoing. The squad had located a car that was captured on surveillance video speeding away from the area, but investigators said the car ultimately gave them no additional information. Police declined to say where the car was found.
Watson said he plans to send a couple of deputies, auxiliary officers and undercover officers to the East St. Louis High School graduation.
"Let me put it this way, we are going to be there and we will be watching for anything, security, including any investigation," Watson said.
After the fight among spectators and several athletes at a Southwestern Conference Championships boys track and field meet, Culver canceled the rest of the track season in response to the fight, citing student safety, but the school board overturned the decision. The state superintendent then sided with Culver, ending the season. The fight erupted in the stands near the finish line at the meet's conclusion. It escalated until security guards and administrators had to intervene.
After the incidents, Culver made the decision to cancel the rest of the track season, calling it the "hardest decision I've ever had to make as an educator."
Concern for students' lives trumped possible scholarships, Culver said.
"What good is a scholarship when you are dead?" Culver said. " ... Hopefully those students with scholarships on the line will have already proved themselves enough to secure a scholarship offer."
St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said the sheriff's department is working very hard on Davis' murder, but "rumors aren't evidence." He encouraged anyone with information to come forward.
"We have reason to believe there are witnesses who have additional information about the death of Roosevelt Davis," Kelly said Monday. "They need to bring that information forward to the police and tell the truth in its entirety. ... We need the help of witnesses and the community to establish a full picture of what happened to see justice in this case."
After the fight at the track meet, Culver learned that some of the student athletes knew there was going to be "drama," he said.
The cause of the altercation was not released at the time, but Davis' death occurred just three weeks earlier.
Davis, 21, earned the nickname "The Animal" and a full track scholarship at Vincennes University in Indiana, but returned after one semester. At his own high school graduation in 2016, Davis, in his cap and gown, sprinted across the stadium with his classmates behind him.
"We just want everyone to have a very pleasant and peaceful graduation experience," ISP Capt. Tyler said.