ST. LOUIS – A man was released from police custody Tuesday after being arrested for killing a teen during a hit and run near Ted Drewes. As a result, it caused many in St. Louis to be in disbelief.

Matthew Nikolai, 17, of The Hill neighborhood in south St. Louis was hit and killed, on July 29, crossing Chippewa Street near Ted Drewes.  

The 25-year-old suspect was released Tuesday after 24 hours in police custody.

Joe Vollmer, President of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, said the news of the suspect release shocked everyone.

“Everyone needs a resolution to this,” said Vollmer. “It’s been hard on the whole neighborhood. Definitely, it’s a shock to everyone. (The Nickolai/Merlo families) are such great people. They do everything for the neighborhood. They give of themselves constantly.” 

Vollmer is a long-time alderman for ‘The Hill’ and a long-time friend of the victim and his family.

“Unfortunately, the poor young man was hit by two cars,” said Vollmer. “The other folks stopped and stayed and talked to the police, realizing this was an accident that they needed to report…this other gentleman left. At that point, there’s a criminal element involved somehow, and I’d like to know the details. I’m sure the family would … the whole neighborhood…”  

Last week, police released surveillance photos of the pickup truck they said hit Nikolai. According to the police, the driver left the scene.

Investigators confirmed an auto shop worker reported the truck when the driver tried to get it repaired. They said the driver was booked into jail after turning himself in on Monday.   

Police said they took the case to Circuit Attorney, Kim Gardner’s office to seek felony charges of “leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death” and “evidence tampering.”   

Prosecutors have not filed charges instead, they are taking the case ‘under advisement.’   

“On a personal note, because I know these folks like I do, I’m hoping the Circuit Attorney’s office has done everything they’re supposed to do … to make sure the proper thing is being done here; so that things aren’t just pushed off to the way side.  We need all of the “I’s”  dotted and “T’s” crossed;  every time but especially this time.  

The circuit attorney’s office had no comment on the matter other than to say it does not mean there will be no charges, just not at the moment.   

A 77-year-old man was also killed in a hit and run while crossing Chippewa Street near Ted Drewes in May 2022. There is new urgency among city officials for pedestrian safety upgrades. The city officials are planning to have bollards along the sidewalks and a new traffic signal with a pedestrian crossing.