ST. LOUIS — St. Louis police continued to search Thursday for the suspect who killed officer Norvelle Brown, the third city officer gunned down since 2000.
Brown, a 22-year-old on the force for less than a year, was shot to death about 9:45 p.m. Wednesday on the city’s north side. The bullet missed his bulletproof vest. Police spokesman Richard Wilkes said Brown was shot in the back of his left shoulder, with the bullet exiting through his chest.
“Our hearts go out to the family,” Police Chief Joe Mokwa said. “We’re all devastated.”
Black bunting draped the entrance to police headquarters Thursday as somber officers and detectives came and went.
Officers have recovered a gun that may have been used in the shooting, a weapon that had been fired once. Wilkes said Brown’s service revolver was also recovered at the scene.
Brown was apparently responding to a call when he was shot. He was able to radio for help.
An undercover officer arrived and performed CPR before taking Brown to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in the back of a squad car, Mokwa said. Relatives, several officers and the media converged at the hospital. Mokwa and Mayor Francis Slay announced the officer’s death just after 11 p.m.
“It’s very difficult for the department,” Slay said. “Our prayers are with his family and this police department. From our standpoint, everything will be done to catch the individual or individuals responsible.”
Police conducted a ground and aerial search for the gunman and potentially other suspects.
City police have been more frequently shot at in recent years. Mokwa made the use of body armor mandatory for the city’s 1,100 street officers in October 2002 after an officer was shot while responding to a minor car wreck.
Brown’s death marked the third time since 2000 that a city officer has been gunned down.
Robert Stanze was killed in August 2000 while arresting a suspect. And in January 2004, 24-year-old officer Nicholas Sloan was shot while conducting a narcotics operation when the suspect took Sloan’s handgun and shot the officer in the chest, just above his bulletproof vest. Sloan’s partner, though shot twice, returned fire and killed the suspect.
Since 1836, 164 St. Louis officers have died in the line of duty. Brown was the second this year. Stephen Jerabek, a 30-year veteran, died of a heart attack after completing the department’s annual physical fitness test in February.
The Backstoppers organization, which provides counseling and financial assistance to relatives of officers killed in the line of duty, will provide $5,000 immediately to Brown’s survivors, said Ron Battelle, the organization’s executive director. The Backstoppers also provides health insurance and assistance with education expenses, home repair and maintenance costs and other special needs the family may have.
Brown joined the department as a recruit in March 2006 and graduated from the Police Academy in November. The 2003 graduate of Vashon High School in St. Louis was a coach for the Police Athletic League and received a chief’s letter of commendation at an award ceremony two months ago.
Mokwa honored Brown and another officer for quick actions in responding to reports of a robbery in progress at a barber shop, resulting in the arrest of the suspect, the recovery of stolen money and the recovery of a loaded semi-automatic pistol.
Dozens of St. Louisans and police officers from around the nation offered condolences on the Officer Down Memorial Page Web site.
“The City of St. Louis thanks you for your hard work and dedication,” one anonymous posting read. “When is it going to stop?”
A posting from the sister of Kirkwood Police Sgt. William McEntee, who was shot to death in July 2005, wrote, “How sad that we lose another officer to senseless violence.”