ST. LOUIS – There were two conspicuous absences at Tuesday’s crime summit at St. Louis City Hall: St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell. Both Gardner and Bell said they were not invited to the meeting.
“You need to ask the question of conveners of this (summit), why were the reps of the people not there?” Gardner said.
Who does Gardner believe convened the crime summit and chose not to invite her?
“I don’t know; you have to ask them,” she said.
Staffers in Bell’s office said they found out about summit reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Tuesday and raced a representative there. Bell was out of town attending the National Black Caucus. Office reps were shocked at not being invited, a feeling echoed by Gardner.
“It’s not about Wesley Bell or myself. We’re the only elected officials charged with violent crime in the city and county,” she said. “So, if you have a crime summit, why was people’s voice silenced?”
Gardner said the people who elected her and Bell will not be silenced and they feel that way after Tuesday’s summit.
“We are going to be a part of those meetings. How can this crime issue be addressed without elected prosecutors?” she said.
We asked Gardner about a recent tweet from her office suggesting that police should not have questioned a man on marijuana possession. That incident ended with police shooting and killing 28-year-old Cortez Shepherd.
Police found Shepherd, a convicted felon, with other drugs in his car, as well as a loaded gun, and a 7-year-old child in the backseat.
Gardner said she was not attacking police but added the department should be furious that 15 children have been killed in the city since April but only two of those cases have been brought to her office.
“We’re outraged that the police union is outraged over a tweet,” she said. “Where’s the same outrage when we have many cases that need to be addressed?”
Gardner stressed the people she works for have continued to encourage her.
“They say keep making changes, keep going on and the change the system that has failed all of us,” she said.
The city police department responded to Gardner regarding the lack of arrests on child killings so far this year: “Witness participation is the biggest challenge to solving homicides. We believe that is a well-established fact.”