Crime

Man charged in Belleville gunfight. Shaken residents worry about safety on their block.

At least one person has been charged in connection with a shootout on the 600 block of North Charles Street in Belleville last month, but residents of the neighborhood say they still feel unsafe.

Jamarion R. Jeffery, 23, was charged in St. Clair County Court with aggravated unlawful use of a weapon on Oct. 19.

According to Belleville Police Lt. Todd Keilbach, Jeffery and an acquaintance were making a drug deal when an argument ensued. It escalated to a violent shootout between the two that left multiple homes and vehicles damaged.

Witnesses who hid in their homes during the rolling gun fight said their once quiet street was like “a war zone.” The incident left behind bullet holes and shattered windows on parked cars. There was more damage to a boat and garage doors.

Another man who lives on the street, Pastor Delaron Douglas, said a bullet came through his window and hit the spot in his living room where he had been sitting.

Jeffery was taken into custody that night at his apartment complex on North Charles Street, Keilbach said.

Belleville police met with the Hexenbukel Neighborhood Watch Thursday to update residents on the incident that has left them shaken.

Chief Bill Clay told the residents that Jeffery has since been given a notice to vacate by the owner of the complex. A second suspect, an East St. Louis man who has not yet been formally charged, remained in a St. Louis hospital awaiting extradition to St. Clair County, Keilbach said.

“There are processes and procedures we have to work through,” Keilbach told the neighborhood watch.

One man expressed concern that the suspect in the hospital was not in police custody.

“I don’t feel good about the gentleman who is still in the hospital over this incident,” he said. “Tell me something that makes me feel safe.”

Keilbach and Capt. Mark Heffernan reassured the man that hospital security and St. Louis City police were aware of the suspect and that there is an active warrant for him.

“We get frustrated too,” Keilbach said. “There are processes and procedures that slow us down.”

Thursday night’s meeting was called by the neighborhood watch to discuss issues in the neighborhood with Clay, Keilbach, Heffernan and Mayor Mark Eckert.

The shootout was just one of several recent incidents that have alarmed residents of the neighborhood. Some said their neighborhood has been neglected by the city and has taken a turn since the MetroLink station and a public housing complex opened up nearby.

“I don’t feel safe in my own home,” one man said.

The group of citizens asked police about proactive policing and asked how they could work with them to help prevent crime in the neighborhood.

Clay pointed them to the police’s Calls for Service page online, which is updated weekly to show what kind of calls the department receives, when and where. He also handed out information packets about how to recognize illegal drug house activities.

When the issue of communication was brought up by the neighbors, Keilbach said the department is limited by what it can release so as not to compromise investigations.

“We are one cog in the process and we come from the investigative side,” he said. “We don’t want to ruin any case and we can’t use hearsay in an investigation.”

Though the department practices as much proactive policing as they can within their limits, Clay said, reactivity is a necessary part of the job.

“Proactive policing is not going to stop those kind of crimes,” he said. “Ninety percent of policing is reactive and it needs to be. It is not a bad thing to react. I don’t ever want to sell you on the idea that we can predict anything. I want us to have a realistic approach to understanding policing.

“The police can do what the police can do within the limits we have,” Clay said.

Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.
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