ST. LOUIS: Investigators are trying to determine what led a gunman to open fire on two utility workers in a residential neighborhood in St. Louis, killing both of them before fatally shooting himself.
Police say the gunman walked up to the two men who worked for Laclede Gas Co. on Thursday morning and started shooting, then turned the gun on himself. “It does not appear words were exchanged,” police Capt. Mary Warnecke said.
Both Laclede Gas and the electric company Ameren Missouri pulled workers from the streets for the rest of the day as a precaution.
Manyika McCoy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the workers were connecting gas service to a home she was moving into — one was using a jackhammer and another was in a backhoe. She said she was at her mother’s house nearby when she saw a man walking purposefully down the street toward the workers.
“I heard pop, pop,” the 37-year-old McCoy said.
The worker in the backhoe “was saying, ‘Wait, wait,’ and the guy just kept shooting at him,” she said. The worker eventually collapsed in the street, she said.
The shooting around 11:15 a.m. on St. Louis’ western edge came two days after a man wanted in the slaying of a security guard gunned down three men, including a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee, in unprovoked attacks on the streets of downtown Fresno, California. Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, who is black, was arrested shortly after the rampage, and posts on what appeared to be his Facebook page discussed wanting to kill white people.
Police described the St. Louis shooter as black, and both victims as white, but there was no indication the shooting was racially motivated. Warnecke said police “have no motive at this point in the investigation.”
The names of the shooter and the men he killed have not been released. One of the slain workers was in his 20s and the other was in his 50s, authorities said.
“We are shocked and grieving today after two of our Laclede Gas employees were shot and killed this morning at one of our job sites,” Laclede Gas said in a statement. “We are connecting with their loved ones now. And, we are working with police to understand more about this crisis. We are heartbroken, as you can imagine, and ask that you hold these employees, their families, their friends, Laclede Gas workers and our communities in your thoughts and prayers.”
Laclede, a natural gas distribution utility that serves the St. Louis area and portions of southeast Missouri, said it pulled all nonemergency workers from the streets for the rest of the day as a precaution. Ameren Missouri Senior Vice President Mark Birk also cited precaution in that utility’s decision to bring in all crews working in St. Louis to an operations center.
St. Louis has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates. The city recorded 188 killings in both 2015 and 2016 and had 45 this year through April 18, according to police statistics.
New Mayor Lyda Krewson has said creating a safer city is among her top priorities. On Wednesday, her first full day in office, she announced that Police Chief Sam Dotson was retiring, though he will stay on as a consultant for one year. --AP