East St. Louis house where trooper was shot was stocked with drugs and guns

Al Stewart Jr. was in bed asleep during the early morning of Aug. 23 when an Illinois State Police SWAT team arrived at the door of the house on North 42nd Street in East St. Louis to execute a search warrant.

Within the hour, Trooper Nicholas Hopkins was at a St. Louis Hospital, having been struck in the head by gunfire as he stood on the front porch, waiting to enter the two-unit home. He died later that same day.

The 20-year-old Stewart, shackled and wearing an orange St. Clair County jail jumpsuit, appeared before a U.S. magistrate Monday to face federal charges of using a controlled substance while in possession of a firearm. He’ll face a bond hearing Wednesday.

The complaint against Stewart, meanwhile, outlines details the circumstances that led to the warrant being issued and the standoff that occurred between police and occupants of the house that morning.

The complaint states that a confidential source told police that Christopher R. Grant, since charged with first-degree murder in Hopkins’ death, was using the East St. Louis residence to produce and sell crack cocaine and cannabis, in addition to keeping a stash of firearms.

After a day-long standoff with multiple police agencies, as well as SWAT and tactical units, investigators recovered 12 marijuana plants and supplies for maintaining them, 35 joints, unrolled marijuana and cash, according to the complaint.

They also seized a large cache of weapons that included Stewart’s .40 caliber Glock pistol that police have since connected forensically to a double homicide on Oct. 3, 2018, in East St. Louis and two other non-fatal shootings, according to the complaint against Stewart.

The inventory of guns seized from the home is extensive. It includes:

  • A Glock 9mm pistol loaded with a round in the chamber and an extended magazine.

  • A Mag Tactical Systems multi-caliber rifle, loaded with a large capacity magazine with a round in the chamber.

  • A Bushmaster AR-15 style carbine pistol loaded with one round in the chamber and a loaded magazine on the floor nearby. The gun was stolen from a licensed dealer, according to the complaint.

  • A Roman Cougar AK-style model, Draco pistol loaded with one round in the chamber.

  • A Smith and Wesson .38 Special revolver, unloaded.

  • A Beretta model APX pistol, recovered from a duffle bag found in the rafters of the attic.

  • A Glock .45 auto caliber pistol, with matching loaded magazine, not attached.

  • A Taurus 9mm pistol that had been reported stolen from a residence.

  • One loaded 9mm magazine, three unloaded 9 mm magazines and two unloaded .40 caliber magazines.

The police source agreed to work with state police for three different days in July and August, and each time purchased crack cocaine from Grant, the complaint states.

“During the last controlled purchase, the (confidential source) saw an AK-47 assault rifle and an AR-15 assault rifle and a semi-automatic handgun in plain view while inside the residence,” the complaint states.

A St. Clair County judge issued a search warrant, which was served at about 5:30 a.m. Aug. 23.

According to the complaint, Stewart said he was in bed sleeping with a 16-year-old girl when he was roused by “very loud noises outside the residence.” When he heard gunshots, he said he grabbed a Glock .40-caliber hidden in a kitchen vent, but put it back as soon as police identified themselves.

By that time, police allege, Grant had fired a gun from inside the house, striking Hopkins in the head as he stood on the front porch. Officers returned fire as they retreated from the porch, taking Hopkins with them.

Hopkins, a native resident of Waterloo, was taken to St. Louis University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:10 p.m. He was a 10-year veteran of the Illinois State Police, with a wife and three children.

Agents with the state police SWAT team ordered the building occupants to exit with their hands up. About 30 minutes later, Grant, Stewart and the 16-year-old girl left the building and were taken into police custody.

Stewart told investigators he regularly used marijuana, smoking three to four blunts a day. According to the complaint, he admitted spending about $35 a day to buy marijuana. During an interview with police, he said the Glock was in the kitchen vent when he moved into the unit, but admitted the .38-caliber handgun was given to him by family after he had been shot by members of the Kutt Boys gang at the John DeShields Public Housing Unit in East St. Louis, the complaint states.

If convicted, Stewart could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, a $250,000 fine and three years supervised release.

Grant is being held at the St. Clair County Jail on $5 million bond.

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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