By Alaa Elassar and Jamiel Lynch, CNN
(CNN) — At least one juvenile was killed and nine others injured on Sunday in an overnight shooting in downtown St. Louis, according to Mayor Tishaura Jones.
The shooting took place downtown just after 1 a.m. CT, inside a building at 14th and Washington where a party was being held. The space usually serves as an office space.
A 17-year-old suspect is in custody, police Chief Robert Tracy said during a news conference Sunday.
“This Father’s Day, families across the St. Louis region woke to the news of yet another mass shooting,” Jones said.
“It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, tenfold,” Jones said. “My heart goes out to all of the families in pain today. All those attending will carry with them the scars, physical and mental, from the gun violence that tore into their lives.”
The victim who died was a 17-year-old male, according to Tracy.
The injured victims’ ages range between 15 and 19 years old, the chief said. A 17-year-old female was also trampled running from the scene and has serious spinal injuries, he added.
Police recovered multiple firearms from the scene, including an AR-15 style rifle and a handgun, Tracy said.
Police are investigating who had authority over the office building and who was responsible for the party.
City investing in youth programs
Speaking at the news conference Mayor Jones reflected on the harrowing frequency of mass shootings and the danger they pose to children. When she was a teenager, Jones said, kids spent most nights with friends, at teen clubs or skating rings.
“There were places to go and things to do and we were safe. Not so much anymore,” she said. “For our babies living in households struggling to make ends meet, where can they go to see their friends and have fun?
“All too often the answer leads to something dangerous and unfortunately tragic situations like this one.”
St. Louis officials are working to create more safe spaces for children to keep them away from dangerous areas, like where Sunday’s party was held, by leveraging resources to make investments in youth programs, Jones said.
This includes summer programs that create “safe. educational spaces” while they’re out of school, she said.
“Officers respond after the shooting starts and we as a city, as a community, and as a region must offer our young people safe spaces before it escalates into dangerous late night parties in cubicles in office buildings,” Jones said.
The St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment is offering summer and year-round youth jobs, including its YouthBuild program that connects at-risk youth ages 16-24 with training and education opportunities, she said.
The St. Louis Office of Violence Prevention is also using federal resources to hold pop up activities, like movie nights and music events to give kids opportunities to safely gather together, the mayor added.
Serena Muhammad, the deputy director of the Saint Louis Mental Health Board, spoke at the news conference and highlighted the importance of community members getting involved in offering solutions to provide safe spaces for young people.
The city is focused on overall community wellness, Muhammad said, through out-of-school programs, downtown events, neighborhood social events and providing resources for families to recover from trauma.
Weak gun laws “are killing our children”
Along with protecting children by offering them safe spaces, the biggest issue at hand, the mayor said, are the state’s gun laws. Missouri has one of the highest rates of gun deaths in the US, according to a 2022 study by Everytown for Gun Safety.
“Our state’s lax gun laws make our challenge even more difficult,” Jones said. “The Missouri legislature failed to restrict minors from carrying guns, a common sense solution to keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of children.”
Rep. Cori Bush, whose congressional district covers all of St. Louis, at the press conference echoed Jones’ sentiments on how the lack of efforts to decrease gun violence across the US contributed to Sunday’s tragedy.
“And why?” Bush said. “Because of weak gun laws in the state of Missouri and across this country that are killing our children, legislators that are blocking literal life saving policies that could help protect our children and the very people they were elected to represent.”
There have been more than 310 mass shootings in the United States so far this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
“When we sign up to represent people, we sign up to represent all the people. The truth is we know how to tackle this preventable crisis. We can save lives, we can save our children,” Bush said.
“But state and federal lawmakers, legislating from within the pockets of the NRA, they won’t stop the harm. They are choosing guns over our children. They are choose violence over safety. They are choosing death over life.”
Following passage of last year’s bipartisan gun safety law, there’s been little political momentum in the divided Congress for more gun safety legislation, even as the rate of mass shootings has picked up. The bill represented the most significant new federal legislation to address gun violence since the expired 10-year assault weapons ban of 1994, but it failed to ban any weapons.
“The violence these children experienced last night is intolerable and unacceptable,” Jones said. “Wrap your arms around your children today as we mourn because I will wrap my arms around mine.”
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