Teens charged in death of retired Mo. police officer

The retired officer was parking his car when he was approached by an armed robber


By Christine Byers and Joel Currier
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

ST. LOUIS — Two teen suspects in the fatal shooting of a retired St. Louis police sergeant have been turned over to juvenile authorities, police said Tuesday.

Information about the charges faced by the teens — 15 and 16 — won’t become public unless they are charged as adults.

A handcuffed teen is taken to an ambulance after police officers caught him in a crashed Honda SUV that hit a building after being chased by police at Allen and South Jefferson avenues on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The SUV was wanted in connection with the robbery and shooting of a retired officer, who later died at a hospital. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
A handcuffed teen is taken to an ambulance after police officers caught him in a crashed Honda SUV that hit a building after being chased by police at Allen and South Jefferson avenues on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. The SUV was wanted in connection with the robbery and shooting of a retired officer, who later died at a hospital. (Robert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

One was arrested Monday at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he was dropped off with a gunshot wound to the wrist. He was injured in a shootout after he tried to rob retired St. Louis Police Sgt. Ralph E. Harper earlier that morning on a residential street near Tower Grove Park.

The other teen was among two people arrested after police chased an SUV believed to be the getaway vehicle in the shooting.

The other suspect arrested after the SUV crashed, Julian Mathews, 17, was not involved in the robbery and shooting of the officer, police said. He was charged Tuesday with second-degree motor vehicle tampering and resisting arrest, misdemeanors connected to his arrest after running from the stolen SUV after it crashed. He was found hiding in a dumpster, charges say.

Bail for Mathews was set at $30,000, cash-only.

Harper was parking his car in the 3100 block of Lackland Avenue about 7:30 a.m. Monday when he was approached by an armed robber, police have said. Harper had his own gun and exchanged shots with the robber. It wasn’t clear who fired first, but both were hit in the shootout.

The would-be robber ran to a waiting Honda Pilot SUV, which took him to Barnes-Jewish hospital. Others in the SUV dropped him off and drove away.

Meanwhile, a wounded Harper called 911 himself. He was rushed to the same hospital, where he died about two hours after the shooting.

Officers spotted the SUV and tried to pull it over. It crashed near Allen and Jefferson avenues, where Mathews and another teen were arrested.

At 17, Mathews is an adult under Missouri criminal law. The other teens arrested are juveniles. It was not clear whether they had been charged in juvenile court.

Mathews was arrested less than a week before Harper’s death on suspicion of gun and drug-related charges, according to police sources. Officers arrested him on Oct. 17 as part of a drug investigation. He was released pending lab results on the suspected drugs police say were found on him, sources said.

Mathews lives in Velda Village Hills, according to police. The SUV was stolen earlier this month from Olivette.

Harper worked for the police department for 33 years before he retired in 2007. He didn’t live in the neighborhood where he was shot, but a neighbor said a relative of Harper’s lives nearby.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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