Police are investigating the shooting death of a 20-year-old man they found inside a car after it crashed into a fence Saturday evening.
Illinois State Police Sgt. Jerri Hochmuth said East St. Louis police received a call shortly after 6 p.m. reporting that someone had struck a fence in the 3000 block of St. Clair Avenue.
The man was identified by St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. as Sanchez Rhodes, of East St. Louis.
Dye said Rhodes was driving eastbound when he was shot and crashed into the MetroLink fence in the 3000 block of St. Clair Avenue.
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“He was shot once in his head and was pronounced at 6:40 p.m. at the scene,” Dye said.
“When officers arrived on scene, they located a black male, who was the sole occupant of the vehicle, inside in the front seat. EMS responded and found the subject had been shot and was deceased,” Hochmuth said.
Police have not identified a suspect or motive for the shooting.
“We have no further information at this time,” Hochmuth said.
Barry Malloyd, East St. Louis Senior High School track coach, was numb when he received news that a former member of the school’s track team had died. Six months ago, Rhodes’ best friend, Roosevelt Davis Jr., was shot and killed in Cahokia.
Pausing between words, Malloyd talked about the young man he knew.
“Sanchez was self driven and a hard worker ... very focused,” Malloyd said.
In 2016, Rhodes was captain of the track team at East St. Louis senior High School.
“He was an awesome student athlete and he was academically sound,” Malloyd said. “If we thought anybody would go to the next level and go to college, it would be Sanchez. He was very respectful.”
Malloyd said Rhodes and Davis were best friends. The two left East St. Louis Senior High School and went to Vincennes University in Indiana together. Malloyd said both of them left the university shortly after, however.
Following Davis’ killing on April 14 the school had 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. The Southwestern Conference boys track and field meet was canceled as a result.
The Major Case Squad was activated to investigate Davis’ killing but later disbanded. The investigation into the death of Roosevelt Davis Jr. continued with the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.
Charges have not been filed in the case of Davis’ death, but St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly confirmed Monday morning that the investigation is still active.
Malloyd said one of Rhodes’ friends called him with the news this weekend.
“I was absolutely stunned because Sanchez had started to turn his life around. He just had a baby a few months ago. He was talking about going back to school. He had joined church in 2016 and was talking about going back to church. I saw the very visible difference in him,” Malloyd said.
Malloyd said he last spoke to Rhodes on Facebook three days ago. He added had no idea why someone would want to take Rhodes’ life.
District 189 officials released a statement saying a grief crisis team was at the school before the start of school.
A statement released by Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, director of Strategic Partnerships for the district, said:
“The community at school district 189 is deeply saddened to hear about the loss of Sanchez Rhodes. We wish his family and friends comfort during this time of difficulty. Our crisis response team mobilized this morning and have been providing grief support and counseling to students and staff at East St. Louis Senior High School. They will be available to students for as long as needed.”
Tamekia Campbell, Rhodes’ mother, says she wants the world to know her son was “a very, very nice man.” His nickname was “Scoop” and he was the oldest of her three children, Campbell said.
Campbell learned of her son’s death from a detective at the East St Louis Police Department who called her to come to the police department. Campbell said she felt something was really wrong. And, she said she had that feeling “probably when it happened.”
“I don’t understand how something like this could have happened,” Campbell said.
She said Rhodes was on his way to pick up his baby’s mother when the gunman shot inside of his car, killing him and causing him to crash into the MetroLink fence.
“He was so full of life. It’s so sad he had to go so soon. He had so much to offer. He went through a tough time when he lost his friend (Roosevelt Davis). He just started to pick himself up. He just had a baby, a girl. He loved her, Campbell said of her 7-month old granddaughter. “She was the light of his life. She meant everything to him. Her life meant more than his own.”
“It’s never right to make someone suffer the way I am suffering over the loss of my child. I forgive them, but I want whoever did this brought to justice.” She said she was not saying her son was perfect because there was no way for her to know what he was doing when he was not around her. But,”I know he wouldn’t have harmed a hair on anybody’s head,” Campbell said.