ST. LOUIS – A gunman opened fire on two utility workers in a residential St. Louis neighbourhood Thursday, killing both of them before fatally shooting himself.
The shooting happened around 11:15 a.m. on the western edge of the city. Police say the gunman walked up to the two male workers for Laclede Gas Co. and began shooting, then turned the gun on himself.
The reason for the shooting was a mystery. Both Laclede Gas and another utility, the electric company Ameren Missouri, said they pulled workers from the streets for the rest of the day as a precaution.
“We have no motive at this point in the investigation,” police Capt. Mary Warnecke said. “It does not appear words were exchanged.”
Manyika McCoy, 37, 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 was at her mother’s house nearby when, she said, she saw a man walking purposefully down the street toward the workers.
“I heard pop, pop,” McCoy said. The worker in the backhoe “was saying, ‘Wait, wait,” and the guy just kept shooting at him,” McCoy said. The worker eventually collapsed in the street, she said.
The shooting 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.
Names of the victims and the shooter have not been released. Authorities say the workers were both men, one in his 20s and the other in his 50s.
Laclede Gas is a natural gas distribution utility that serves the St. Louis area and portions of southeast Missouri.
“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 Gas pulled all non-emergency workers from the streets for the rest of the day as a precaution, the company said. Ameren Missouri Senior Vice-President Mark Birk also cited precaution in the decision to bring in all crews working in St. Louis to an operations centre.
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.