Two teen boys in Missouri are facing murder charges in the death of a retired St. Louis police sergeant who was gunned down during a botched robbery, authorities said.
A 16-year-old boy believed to be the gunman was charged Tuesday in juvenile court on charges of second-degree murder and attempted first-degree robbery. A 15-year-old boy also faces the same charges, as well as tampering with a motor vehicle and resisting arrest after the Monday incident, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
Police said the 16-year-old suspect was arrested at a hospital where he was dropped off to be treated for a gunshot wound to his wrist – a wound investigators say he sustained trying to rob retired St. Louis police Sgt. Ralph Harper early Monday.
The 15-year-old suspect was one of two people arrested after officers tracked down a Honda Pilot believed to be the getaway vehicle used by the teens following the attempted robbery and fatal shooting.
Police said Harper, 67, was parking his car near a relative’s house when he was approached by an armed suspect. Harper, who was also armed, exchanged gunfire with the suspect, leaving both he and the suspect wounded, police said.
Harper, who was rushed to the same hospital as the 16-year-old suspected gunman, died a few hours later, according to the Post-Dispatch.
The other suspect arrested in the SUV, Julian Mathews, 17, was not involved in the robbery and shooting. He’s now facing charges of motor vehicle tampering and resisting arrest. Both of those charges are in connection to fleeing from the stolen SUV after it crashed. Mathews was later found hiding in a dumpster, police said.
Both the 15- and 16-year-old suspect were not identified due to their ages, but a woman identified the younger suspect as her son, Justin Mathews, who is Julian’s brother.
“My deepest sympathy goes out to his family,” Mathews’ mother, Marissa Woods, told the Post-Dispatch. “They are probably so deep in their feelings right now that they don’t care, but I want them to know that I care.”
Woods continued: “They shouldn’t have been out doing that to anyone from the get-go, but they didn’t know that was a police officer.”
Woods told the newspaper she thought her sons were headed to school that morning.
“I just want people to know that they came from a good house,” she continued. “They just got with the wrong crew. Bad things can happen to good people.”
A juvenile court judge will now rule whether Justin Mathews and the 16-year-old suspect will face trial as adults. Mathews, meanwhile, is an adult under the state’s criminal code, the Post-Dispatch reports.
Funeral services for Harper, who worked for St. Louis police for 33 years before retiring in 2007, will be held on Friday.
“He was a very good person, a very wonderful personality, very warm and compassionate person,” Police Chief John Hayden told reporters during a press conference on Monday. “It affects you a little differently when you know the person involved personally. I apologize for my emotions but at the same time, I did know him personally and I still am close with the family members.”
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