Gun violence claims life of 17-year-old in Jennings

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JENNINGS, MO - Another St. Louis area teen loses his life to gunfire. This time police say Caleb Smith, 17, was shot and killed Wednesday afternoon in Jennings. St. Louis County Police are investigating the case. They say one person of interest is in custody. Deryon Thomas, 19, is charged with first degree murder in this shooting.

We talked with family members of Caleb Smith. They chose not to speak on camera but did confirm that the 17-year-old was a junior at Jennings High School.

“I was coming out my front door and I heard pow, pow, pow,” said Sue Rose who lives just feet from where the 17-year-old was found shot in an alley off Strathmore Place near West Florissant.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sue says one of the bullets from the incident hit her home.

“The young man was laying in the alley. I didn`t see anybody cuz I guess they ran off. But he was laying right there,” said Rose. She added, “I`m a grandmother, I got grandkids, I got great-grandkids, who want to see this especially outside your door.”

The whole episode unfolded about 1:00 pm. An investigator tells us two groups were involved in a gun battle when the killing happened. Residents say they heard multiple gunshots.

Besides the main scene in the alley, there was another scene nearby on College Avenue where police found more shell casings. There was also a third scene on West Florissant where several blocks were shut down for a while.

Marlene Mitchell, who lives on Strathmore near where the teen was found, told us, “It`s crazy. You know we hear gunshots all the time but not this close.”

The Jennings School District Superintendent Art McCoy is preparing for what could be a difficult day on Thursday at Jennings High.

He says several grief counselors will be on hand.

“We`ll make sure every student and staff member has conversations that are needed to process what occurred and to feel safe and well through this tragedy,” said McCoy.

Concerned resident Lynn Pullium added, “Violence is not the answer. What happened to love, what happened to helping somebody. Young people put the guns down.”

McCoy says he did put three schools on lockdown for a time after the shooting. He tells us the grief counselors will remain at the high school for the rest of the week.

Investigators told us they are looking for at least one more suspect.

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