Jan 22, 2020 3:01 AM

Missouri lawmakers spar over how to handle spike in violence

Posted Jan 22, 2020 3:01 AM

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri lawmaker pitching a tough-on-crime bill Tuesday directed blame for a surge in violence in the state's biggest cities at factors including the sometimes violent protests in Ferguson and St. Louis' prosecutor.

Suburban St. Louis Republican Sen. Bob Onder told a panel of state senators that a law-and-order approach had worked in the past to reduce crime across the U.S. He said the "riots” in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, where protesters went on for months after the fatal police shooting of black 18-year-old Michael Brown, marked a turning point.

“Since then, every police officer fears being the next Darren Wilson,” Onder said, referring to the white officer who shot Brown in 2014. Wilson was not charged with a crime and he later resigned.

Onder also placed blame on St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, whom he described as a “far left” prosecutor uninterested in going after violent criminals.

Soon after taking office as St. Louis' first-ever black circuit attorney in 2017, Gardner announced she would cease prosecutions of low-level marijuana crimes. In 2018, she developed an “exclusion list” of more than two dozen police officers who were barred from serving as primary witnesses in criminal cases over what Gardner called credibility concerns.

On Monday she filed a federal civil rights lawsuit accusing the city, the local police union and others of a coordinated and racist conspiracy aimed at forcing her out of office.

Sen. Karla May, a black Democrat from St. Louis, said Onder was looking at the issue of crime from the perspective of a white man, whom she said are “privileged in the U.S.” She cited racism and other systemic issues, such as poor funding for re-entry programs to help former inmates, as major problems that need to be addressed.

“You’re not looking through the lens of the citizens who live in St. Louis city," May told Onder, who is white.

The dispute highlights a broader divide between Missouri lawmakers over how to address an uptick in violence.

On Sunday, a gunman opened fire on people leaving or waiting to get into the 9ine Ultra Lounge in eastern Kansas City as the city celebrated the win that put the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

Last year was also bloody. St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield all have seen spikes in gun crimes and homicides in recent years, and more than a dozen children were killed in gun violence in St. Louis last year.

While Democrats have called for more restrictions on gun ownership and greater flexibility for cities to impose their own gun rules, the Republican majority is pushing to ramp up penalties for violent crime and other weapons-related crimes. Onder's bill would lengthen minimum prison sentences for felonies committed with weapons.

Other GOP-backed proposals include stronger witness protection programs and better mental health services.

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Jan 22, 2020 3:01 AM
The Latest: 16-year-old charged in SW Missouri shooting

BATTLEFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A 16-year-old has been charged with shooting and wounding another teen over the weekend in southwest Missouri.

The Greene County Juvenile Office says the suspect is in custody and facing juvenile court charges that are equivalent to second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon.

Greene County sheriff's Capt. Marc Staeger said Tuesday that the victim had been flown to an out-of-town hospital and was considered in critical condition.

No details have been released about what led up to the Sunday afternoon shooting in the town of Battlefield. The name of the suspect also wasn't released because of his age.

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BATTLEFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say one juvenile has shot and seriously injured another youth in southwest Missouri.

The Greene County Sheriff's Office reported that the shooting happened around 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Battlefield. The wounded juvenile was in stable condition as of Monday.

The sheriff's office said the suspect is in juvenile custody. No other information was immediately released, including the ages of the shooter and the victim.