ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) - St. Louis Metropolitan Police said bar employees rushed to protect their customers' cars from thieves just before one suspect opened fire overnight in Soulard.
Surveillance video from the Social House of Soulard bar showed employees running across Carroll Street at 7th Street just before 1 a.m. Wednesday. One employee did not want to be identified. He said the bar keeps the back door locked for safety reason. He had just opened the door for a coworker and his friend.
"We were standing outside, having a cigarette,” he remembered. “And, that's when I heard the window smash.”
The employee said the two men were smashing car windows before jumping in a SUV.
"He took off. He got about five or eight feet. I was standing in the street, yelling at them, 'Hey! Get over here!' I didn't think they were going to come over here. So, when they did I knew something was definitely wrong."
The video showed the SUV suddenly backing up, and then speeding forward. You could see little flashes of light, and the employees running away.
"I didn't actually see any shooting. I just heard,” he said. “I jumped behind a dumpster. I was scared for my life."
Even while dodging what he said was over a dozen shots, the employee and the others got critical pieces of information.
"We were trying to help in any possible way that we could with the license plates, make model of the car, descriptions of people."
There have been break-ins in the area before. Across 7th Street at the Cuz’ Bar, victims found more smashed car windows and missing belongings. Witnesses say about 20 cars were vandalized all over the Soulard area. Still, manager Nick Trupiano said the Social House is safe.
"We have surveillance cameras all around the building. We have them all inside."
Trupiano said while his bar remains popular for lunch and dinner, the crime is driving away his nightclub regulars. He said he is frustrated.
“Something has to be done,” he said. “Maybe some heavier patrols or even a couple of dummy cars over there.”
But, he believed St. Louis Police were doing all they could.
“I’ve been doing business in St. Louis for 15 years. I love it here,” Trupiano said. “Mayor [Francis] Slay is doing everything he can.”
He also said new police chief Sam Dotson is tackling a major problem that cannot be chased down to any one neighborhood.
"It's easy for you or for me to say, 'Something has to be done.' But, it's a little harder to do it,” he said. "It's not a bar problem. It's a city-wide problem."
Later in the morning, at least two vehicles were broken into at the Holiday Inn express on South Jefferson. Thieves stole a bible from one vehicle and a gun from another.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police said one suspect was driving the dark-colored Mercury Mountaineer SUV witnesses saw at last night's scene. He is an African-American male between 18 and 20 years old, with a dark complexion and clean-shaven face. He appeared to weigh between 190 and 200 pounds, and was wearing a black hooded jacket.
The suspected gunman -- a passenger -- is described as an African-American male between 20 and 25 years old, also with a dark complexion. Witnesses said he was also wearing an all-black outfit.
The truck was last seen going northbound on Interstate-55 near 8th Street in Soulard.
If you know anything about this, you are being asked to call St. Louis Metropolitan Police at (314) 231-1212.