Interstate shootings don’t surprise police, who say streets are flooded with guns

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ST. LOUIS – Two interstate shootings Monday have people wondering if they’re safe anywhere. But they are just the beginning of the violence police say they’re seeing every day.

“The streets are absolutely flooded with stolen guns,” Maryland Heights Police Chief Bill Carson said.

The chief said many of them are coming from legal gun owners who are carrying them in their cars. Carson said it’s so prevalent now that criminals are confident they’ll find a gun when breaking into a car. He said the criminals are “looking specifically for guns. They’re finding guns and a lot of times when we encounter them, they are armed with guns they’ve stolen out of cars.”

Carson said criminals are targeting parking lots in the city and the suburbs, from hotels to shopping centers.

“They might hit an apartment parking lot and hit 15-20 cars and come up with three guns,” he said. “They’re hitting the jackpot.”

Police are still investigating the two interstate shootings. The first happened in the middle of the day – at about 3 p.m. on I-170 near Olive. From Bommarito Automotive Skyfox you could see multiple shell casings marked by police and a SUV with bullet holes in the driver’s side. Forty-six-year-old Kristen Whittedwas shot and killed.

Four hours later, St. Louis police reported a second interstate shooting at about 7 p.m. near I-55 and Germania. An incident report says “an unknown black sedan pulled next to (the victim) on the exit ramp and fired a shot into his vehicle. The victim is stable. The investigation is ongoing.”

Though we don’t know the source of the guns from these incidents yet, Chief Carson said they’re finding many crimes tied to stolen guns. Last June, Maryland Heights police were undercover in a car break-in sting when a 17-year-old suspect who was checking car door handles shot an officer who confronted him

“It becomes more dangerous for the police officers because they are finding more and more people breaking into cars that are armed with handguns,” Carson said.

He added that it’s a vicious cycle. He said when violence spikes, law-abiding citizens buy guns, and then criminals steal them from cars.

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