It’s been reported frequently that 13 juveniles have been killed in St. Louis this year, but the city’s Public Safety Director, Jimmie Edwards, says that eight of them “were teenagers engaged in criminal behaviors themselves” and “very sophisticated.” Those killed who were under 10 years old were innocent victims, Edwards says. He told a committee of the Board of Aldermen on Thursday, “The purpose here is not to demonize anyone; the facts are the facts,” reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Edwards said a 15-year-old was found dead one morning “with an automatic weapon on his person with an extended ammunition magazine, $5,000 in cash and a large quantity of drugs.”
He said another shooting victim, 16, was on “the police carjacking offender list” and had been allegedly shot in a crossfire “engaged in by two other 16-year-olds.”
Edwards’ comments, first made in a radio interview, prompted outrage from 13 organizations, which issued a joint statement saying “this kind of demonization of our children is shocking and unacceptable.” Among the organizations signing on were Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, Metropolitan Congregations United, the Deaconess Foundation and the Organization for Black Struggle. They said Edwards’ comments built “on racist, dehumanizing tropes” about black children and distracted from public policies “that continue to deepen poverty and despair instead of investing resources to create safety and opportunity.” Edwards, who is black, noted that as a judge he had tried to lessen “the negative impact that the school-to-prison pipeline … had on black and brown children” by starting a school in 2009 to protect kids from criminal influences that continues to operate.