Amid a sixth day of protest after a police officer was found not guilty of murder in a 2011 fatal shooting, family and friends of another man killed by police gathered outside St. Louis’ City Hall on Wednesday. On what would have been Isaiah “Vinny” Hammett’s 22nd birthday, they served birthday cake and tried to draw attention to what they believe was his murder by police, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Hammett was one of eight people St. Louis police have fatally shot so far this year. It is the highest number of fatal police shootings by city police in the past decade, with more than three months left in the year. There were five people killed by St. Louis police in all of 2016. In addition to those killed, police have shot and wounded seven other people this year. Police say all of those killed by officers were armed. One of them stabbed an officer before being fatally shot.
The remaining seven pointed a gun at officers before they were killed, police said. Three of those, including Hammett, fired at officers before they were fatally shot, according to police. Hammett’s family does not believe the police when they say he fired at officers with an AK-47 when they entered his grandfather’s home to serve a search warrant. The fact that police shootings are up is well known among the ranks, said Lt. Col. Rochelle Jones. As a result, officers have been on heightened alert to wait for backup instead of approaching a potentially dangerous situation alone. They are undergoing training on how to better communicate in stressful situations. Jones attributed the rise in police shootings to the rise in violent crime. She noted aggravated assaults are up 5.6 percent this year compared to last, and aggravated assaults with guns are up 16 percent. Criminologist David Klinger of the University of Missouri-St. Louis said, “As crime rates go up and down, so do police shootings.”