ST. LOUIS – It’s astounding to some that the man accused of committing an execution-style murder at about 10 a.m. Monday has no known criminal record.
It’s not surprising, however, to people who live and work in that area. They describe it as a section downtown where anything can happen at any time.
For some context, the address of Monday’s killing on Tucker is just about two blocks from where 17-year-old Janae Edmonson lost her legs to an erratic driver on St. Charles Street.
Christopher Peterson stood at the corner of Tucker and Convention Plaza, within sight of Monday’s killing, and said, “Anything could happen right here.”
“There’s a lot of crazy stuff that happens down here. A lot!” one woman added.
As our news crew spoke with people, we received warnings from four different people over a half-hour period. “Be careful.”
“It’s the wild, wild west,” Jacen Phelps said.
Several others told us they heard Monday’s gunshot, followed by screams from people who saw the victim dead on the sidewalk.
DeShawn Thomas, 23, was arrested and charged shortly after the shooting.
Phelps vividly remembers seeing the suspect’s forehead tattoo as he exclaimed, “He had a picture of a knife tattooed on his face.”
Despite that menacing tattoo, Thomas had no known criminal record. The suspect and his victim, David Saldana, were reported to be transient.
Thomas was last known to have a few miles away from the shooting on Arsenal. The address is subsidized apartment living for people struggling with homelessness. A resident at the complex told us Thomas had just been kicked out.
A downtown resident said he saw Thomas quite a bit recently.
“I don’t remember much about him, but I knew him from around,” Tiger Jackson said. “I would just see him here, there, a little bit of everywhere.”
A woman nearby added, “He moved from place to place.”
The woman, who did not want to be identified said she was currently staying at St. Patrick’s Center. She added that she remembered Thomas fondly as she said.
“He was a decent young man,” she said.
The scary part about this area, she says, is that there’s often a dangerous mixture of drug addiction and mental illness.
“It is unpredictable,” she said.
Phelps, who said he currently struggles with homelessness, told us he was recently robbed at gunpoint.
“Anyone can buy a gun. If you’ve got money, you can buy a gun for a hundred bucks,” he said.
Phelps said it’s easy for anyone if they just walk to the downtown parks.
Christopher Peterson was in the area hoping to instead get cellphones into the hands of people.
“If you don’t have a cellphone, you have nothing,” he said.
He went on to talk about the challenges for people in the area.
“Some have IDs and some don’t, because somebody stole their stuff,” he said.
Peterson is a downtown native who explained that he knows it can change here in an instant as he said.
“You better have your shoes tied up tight, your purse tight,” he said. “Yeah, just be on it – just be looking around.”