NEW ATHENS, Ill. – Investigators are asking people to be on the lookout for a vehicle of interest in connection with a deadly shooting Thursday afternoon in rural St. Clair County.
The vehicle of interest is considered to be a light blue Chevrolet Equinox with a yellow light or small light bar on the roof. That vehicle reportedly left the area quickly after shots were fired.
The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis continues to follow leads, but has yet to identify a suspect or make an arrest in the investigation. The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office sent two photos of the vehicle wanted in the investigation.
Investigators say three men interrupted a burglary in progress at a home in rural St. Clair County when they arrived Thursday morning. One man died and two others were hurt and hospitalized from the shooting. The victims range from 25 to 50 years old.
Police responded to the 9300 block of Golden Rule Mine Road at around 11:30 am Thursday for a report of a shooting. They found the victims with gunshot wounds outside of a home. Authorities say Austin M. Evans-Blakey, 25, of Lenzburg, Illinois, died in the shooting. He worked as a handyman for the homeowner.
Capt. Bruce Fleshren, of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, said the motive in the burglary or shooting is unknown at this time. During a news conference Thursday, he said confrontations between homeowners and burglars are not common in the county, particularly during daytime hours.
“This is unusual. I’ve been around a long time. Normally burglars run away,” said Fleshren. “This is a rural remote area, so they felt safe I guess during the day. A confrontation directly between homeowners and criminals is pretty rare. Unfortunately, the subject was armed and opened fire for whatever reason. We hope to get to the bottom of what this is about.”
Fleshren said law enforcement is still processing the scene for evidence. He said it appears the victims were unarmed before they were shot. It’s unclear if the shooting was part of a random or targeted attack.
If you have any information on the investigation, contact the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department at 618-825-2051.