Fugitive Kevin Scott avoided capture for nearly five years despite being wanted in St. Louis County for three robberies. Police picked him up at least five times in two states, he avoided capture because St. Louis-area police didn’t issue a warrant for his arrest, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the third article in a series. They haven’t done so for thousands of other felony fugitives, who can flee the area, get stopped by police elsewhere, and avoid being returned to face justice.
St. Louis is one of the few major metro areas in the nation that routinely decline to issue arrest warrants for fugitives. Of all the cases of St. Louis suspects sought for felonies, a third lack warrants. Police elsewhere don’t know when they’ve stumbled upon one of these fugitives because, without warrants, their names are not allowed in a database police check nationwide. Victims are left to assume all is being done to find the perpetrators. Victims include cabdriver Jerald Murray, who picked Scott out of a photo lineup weeks after a robbery in 2001. “It’s ridiculous,” Murray said. “I think that every citizen in this city and state should be outraged.” The local practice spans decades but can’t pinpoint who started it, when or why. It has resulted in an unusual category of fugitive: sought on something called a “wanted.” Police – not judges – issue wanteds. Police insist they use the same standard judges do: There’s enough evidence, or “probable cause,” to arrest the person. On Oct. 31, the most recent data available, police had issued 4,387 wanteds for felonies in St. Louis city and county. Federal fugitive task forces based in St. Louis and many agencies outside the region don’t arrest people on wanteds, according to law enforcement officials. Fearing lawsuits over false arrest, they want a judge’s OK to detain someone.