ST. LOUIS, Mo. --An off-duty St. Charles County sheriff's deputy shot and killed a would-be robber late Monday night near the Grand Basin area of Forest Park, authorities say. The deputy also shot and wounded two other young men. They were hospitalized Tuesday morning.
The deputy and a female friend who was with him were uninjured. It happened at about 11:15 p.m. Monday as the deputy and his friend were jogging, according to St. Louis city police homicide investigators who are handling the probe.
St. Charles County Sheriff Tom Neer said that, after talking with his deputy and to St. Louis city homicide investigators, he has every reason to believe this was a justifiable shooting. He said he thinks his deputy -- who is "a competent, well-trained deputy" assigned to a federal task force -- acted to save his life and possibly the life of the woman with him after being confronted by a gunman.
"If someone is going to rob you and point a gun at you, you can assume they have intent to kill you and take your worldly possessions. That's what guns do, they kill you," Neer said in an interview Tuesday morning.
Here is the account of Monday night's shooting provided by St. Louis city homicide investigators:
It was just after curfew in Forest Park. At the foot of Art Hill, the off-duty deputy and his female friend stopped jogging near the corner of the Grand Basin. A young man walked slowly past them. The deputy grew suspicious, police say, and put his weapon at his side. As the deputy and the woman turned the corner, three men in their late teens to early 20s came toward them and said they were going to rob them. The men were wearing hoodies and dark clothing. They had a gun.
When the deputy saw the gun, he pulled his and opened fired. He told investigators that he had seen a gun and feared for his life. He told investigators that he had identified himself before firing the shots.
The young man who died was 18 years old. Police haven't released his name. He was shot three times in the lower abdomen and died at the scene.
A second suspect was shot in the buttocks. He was listed in critical but stable condition at a hospital.
A third suspect was shot in the neck. He was hospitalized, but his official condition was unavailable. Police characterized it as guarded and stable.
Police haven't revealed how many shots the deputy fired. The suspect with the gun did not fire his weapon, which was recovered at the scene.
St. Louis police haven't identified the officer, and refused to release his name. City police say the deputy has been with the St. Charles County sheriff's office for 16 years; however, Neer said he thinks he hired the deputy about eight years ago when he became sheriff. Neer said the man may have been in law enforcement with another agency before coming to St. Charles County.
Neer described him as "a competent deputy" assigned to criminal investigations. "For about the last year, he's been assigned to one of federal task forces, and I don't assign people to federal task forces if they're not competent, well-trained and qualified individuals."
Neer said he supports his deputy. Neer said that, based on his conversations with St. Louis city police, there is nothing to indicate the shooting was anything but justified.
Neer said he didn't know of any other instance when the deputy fired at someone. As is protocol with his department, Neer said the deputy would be put on administrative leave while the investigation continues.
Neer talked with the deputy by phone after the shooting Monday night.
"He's dealing with it, and obviously he's upset over the situation," Neer said.
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