There were no police at MetroLink station when teen killed. They were one station away.

Is MetroLink really so dangerous?

To figure out if MetroLink is really so dangerous, the Belleville News-Democrat collected reports from 15 police departments on the line as well as crime data from the past three years.
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To figure out if MetroLink is really so dangerous, the Belleville News-Democrat collected reports from 15 police departments on the line as well as crime data from the past three years.

Police were one station away when a teenager was fatally shot as he got off a MetroLink train Monday night at the Fifth and Missouri station.

“There weren’t any police or security guards there,” said Diedra Smith, the mother of 18-year-old Lundy Blue, who later died of his wounds. “If the police had been there, my son might still be alive. He ran trying to get help.”

Blue, who was a senior honors student at East St. Louis Senior High School, was shot about 10:40 p.m. Monday. A 17-year-old East St. Louis teen, Cantrell L. Dent, has been charged with first-degree murder.

“If they were there, they could have stopped him from running and hopefully would have been able to stop him from bleeding out. There was no one there,” Smith said.

Taulby Roach, president and CEO of MetroLink, said there were no on-duty police officers or security guards at the Fifth and Missouri station when Blue was shot.

“At the time of the incident, two patrol officers were one stop away at Emerson Park. When our operator reported gunshots fired, St. Clair County (deputies) arrived within four minutes,” Roach said.

Also, there was an off-duty security guard on the train who was on his way to duty at another MetroLink station, Roach said.

“He was a witness to the crime. He gave a very important statement to the Sheriff’s Department about the incident,” Roach said.

Roach said surveillance video showed that the suspect got on the train at the Fairview Heights station and the victim got on the train at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee station.

“They were talking to each other — clearly they knew each other and were talking. There was no indication of an altercation. The victim stood up and started to exit the train. The shooter moved behind him and essentially shoots him from behind,” Roach said.

Dent was charged as an adult Wednesday by the St. Clair County State’s Attorneys office with first-degree murder. Dent had been held since Tuesday, when he went to the East St. Louis Police station to talk about the shooting. Initially, he was held as a juvenile but on Wednesday that changed with the decision to charge him as an adult. He will remain at the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center until he turns 18. At that time, he will be taken to the St. Clair County Jail.

Security costs

St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department deputies patrol the MetroLink trains in the metro-east.

“If we had somebody at every single platform, we would have to have 20 police officers. That’s not feasible,” St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said. “It would cost way too much money.

“We can’t be everywhere, no matter how hard we try,” Watson said.

He said MetroLink trains are as safe as any neighborhood. “When something happens on the train, they tend to sensationalize it,” Watson said, speaking about media accounts of the incident.

Both Roach and Watson said in light of Blue’s death, police and security will be monitoring the area more.

Roach said anytime there are incidents such as what happened Monday night, “We respond to try to support the jurisdiction of the main police force. ... The train where the incident occurred is brought in to the shop so we can get the tapes and get them to the police authorities as soon as possible.”

”Metro has all the equipment for the video,” Watson said. “They had it to us right away. They are working great with us. If everybody works together, Bi-State/MetroLink, St. Louis City police, St. Louis County police and the Sheriff’s Department, this line will stay safe. Will something happen sometime? Yes. We can’t prevent every single thing,” Watson said.

WSP, a consultant hired by the East West Gateway Council of Governments, released its findings and recommendations to improve security and safety on the MetroLink system. Recommendations include more collaboration, cooperation, and communication.

Asked whether there has been significant problems such as shootings and fights at the Fifth and Missouri station, Roach said, “We haven’t had significant violence at Fifth and Missouri or any of our specific stations in that area.”

“After incidents like this, we analyze and adjust our department schedule. We try to move our resources around,” Roach said. There are 38 MetroLink stations between Missouri and Illinois, he said.

Roach said he is disappointed with what happened, but he is pleased with the response from police and Metro security.

“I have sympathy for the loss of life and for our community. According to the video, it was not a circumstance we could control,” Roach said.

Remembering teen victim

Diedra Smith, Blue’s mother, said the thought of not seeing her son or hearing his voice again has ripped her heart out.

There is no doubt in her mind that Blue was going to enjoy a successful life.

“His plan was to get out of here after high school,” Smith said. “He hadn’t made up his mind where he wanted to go. He wanted to become an engineer and learn how to design planes. He had a fascination for planes.

“He was very outgoing, funny, the life of the party,” she said.

“He was smart, very intelligent and very respectful. He loved his video games and hanging out with friends and family,” Smith said. “He wasn’t a street kid. He didn’t have any problems. “

Smith said she wants to know why her son was shot. She learned the tragic news at 2 a.m. Tuesday when her nephew called.

When she arrived at the East St. Louis Police Department to confirm the information, a female officer “shook her head yes and said it was him,” Smith said, fighting her emotions.

Smith said her son had been in the front yard the day he was killed until he and his brother left to go hang out to celebrate his younger brother, Shirez Blue’s, 16th birthday.

Smith works two jobs. When she finished the first job on Monday, she came home as she usually does before going to the second job.

“I am working two jobs to make a better living for my kids so they won’t have to be out here,” Smith said.

Shirez Blue talked about the last day he spent with his brother.

“We played video games. We waited until our mother got home from work,” he said. “We talked to her a little while. Then we got dressed. We spent the whole day together. We went to a couple of places. He was rapping and we just had a good day. He could really rap,” Shirez Blue said, with a huge smile lighting up his face as he recalled the moment.

Carolyn P. Smith has worked for the Belleville News-Democrat for 18 years and currently covers breaking news in the Metro-East. She graduated from the Journalism School at the University of Missouri at Columbia and says news is in her DNA.
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