U.S. Marshal Dies of Wounds From Gun Battle

March 8, 2011
Marshal John Perry was shot in the head during a shootout Tuesday.

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- A federal deputy marshal died Tuesday night, hours after he and another deputy and a city police officer were shot by a drug felon they were trying to arrest.

Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry, 48, died at 7 p.m. at St. Louis University Hospital, the U.S. Marshal's Service said. Perry had been with the Marshal's Service for almost 10 years.

Perry was mortally wounded when Carlos Boles, who was wanted for allegedly assaulting a police officer and having drugs in October, opened fire Tuesday morning as a fugitive team tried to arrest him. Boles was killed by returning fire.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Theodore Abegg, who was also hit by gunfire, was in fair condition at St. Louis University Hospital with a wound to his ankle Tuesday night. Abegg, 31, has been with the Marshal's Service for three years.

The city officer was grazed on the face and neck, apparently from a shot deflected by his vest, and was treated at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and released. The officer, who was not identified, was described as a 34-year veteran who is in his 50s.

Shooting erupted shortly before 7 a.m. on the second floor of a two-family flat in the 3100 block of Osage Street, across from Marquette Park. Authorities said Boles, 35, opened fire as officers searched the rooms for him.

The officers had gone to Boles' apartment to arrest him on charges of assaulting an officer and possession of narcotics. Police said Boles had punched and choked an officer outside the same residence in October after officers tried to stop him on suspicion of selling narcotics. Officers used a Taser to subdue him.

Boles was arrested that day but was released pending formal charges. Police Lt. Col. Tim Reagan said lab tests confirmed a month later that a pill bottle Boles allegedly tossed during the incident contained heroin and cocaine base.

The St. Louis Grand Jury indicted Boles on Jan. 11. City police went to arrest him Tuesday with the aid of the marshals.

"The department's Violent Offenders Unit requested the assistance of U.S. marshals as a precaution, due to information received that Boles could pose a threat to law enforcement officials," a statement from police said.

The marshals service is the enforcement arm of the federal judiciary, specializing in fugitive searches and often assisting local departments in making warrant arrests.

"Our people and our partners are well-trained and prepared, but it is impossible to predict when a wanted individual will make a fateful choice that results in the loss of life or injury," Stacia A. Hylton, director of the Marshal's Service, said in a statement announcing Perry's death. "When that happens, and the life lost is a law enforcement officer or other public servant, it is an immeasurable tragedy felt by all."

Before becoming a U.S. marshal in 2001, Perry worked for about 16 years as a probation officer in the Madison County probation and court services department, said the department's director, Judy Dallas.

"John was just one of the very good guys," Dallas said. "He's totally an officer and a gentleman. We were all shocked today when we heard."

Perry held various positions while in Madison County, ultimately working as an intensive probation officer, handling armed surveillance of high-risk offenders. He decided to join the Marshal's Service because he thought working for the federal government was a good career move, Dallas said. He previously worked in the department as a DUI officer and a pretrial officer.

"He was just warm and fun-loving," Dallas said. "He was a people person who everyone always loved to be around."

Dallas said she believed Perry lived in Madison County for at least 25 years.

Before moving in to arrest Boles on Tuesday, police said officers had removed several children from the flat. The first report of officers down came by police radio at 6:51 a.m.

Three hours later, the Marshal's Service headquarters in Washington briefly announced that the critically injured deputy had died. The agency then quickly retracted the statement.

The police statement released Tuesday afternoon said Boles opened fire and wounded the first deputy marshal and the city officer. Officers returned fire, but Boles continued shooting and hit the second marshal. Boles then was killed by more return fire.

The police statement says investigators didn't know immediately how many officers had fired at Boles.

Relatives of Boles said he lived in the flat with a girlfriend and his sister's three children. They said he was the father of two children of his own, a boy, 5, and a girl, 2.

Boles had a felony record dating to January 1993, when he pleaded guilty of assaulting an officer at a juvenile detention center when he was 17. In 2005, he also pleaded guilty of four counts of drug possession and one of resisting arrest. Court files list other offenses as well.

William Sibert, the U.S. marshal in St. Louis, was joined Tuesday morning at St. Louis University Hospital by city Police Chief Dan Isom and Mayor Francis Slay.

"This is a tragic example of what our law enforcement officers go through every day," Slay said. "They need our support and their families need our support."

Back on Osage, the scene became chaotic for a time as SWAT officers surrounded the building and about 100 people, many of them angry at police, gathered.

Sannita Boles, who said she is Carlos Boles' sister, collapsed sobbing in the park across the street. "He's still in there," she wailed about her brother.

Police officers and others helped her up, then officers urged everyone to move away from the line of fire.

Another relative of Boles screamed to the face of an officer, "Why did you do this?"

Friends grabbed her and pulled the woman back. "It wasn't him," one friend said, referring to the officer she had yelled at.

Tony Johnson, 22, who lives nearby, said many in the crowd expressed "complete anger. People around here don't like cops."

But Daniel Shown, 31, who said he moved nearby about three months ago, said he supported the police.

"There are concerns about crime in this community," Shown said. "We are happy police are there to protect us. It's a tragic situation. Nobody's happy about anybody being shot, but police are there to do a job and enforce the law. There are many here happy that they are doing their job."

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said her office couldn't seek felony charges immediately after the Oct. 11 incident because the assault charge was tied to narcotics, which required the follow-up lab work.

"We did it as quickly as possible," Joyce said of the analysis and charges. "My heart just goes out to these guys because they just have such a dangerous job. It's a very, very sad case."

Court files on Boles' cases show that his first assault conviction was for beating a detention officer at the Hogan Street Regional Youth Center. The files show he also escaped from the center.

While in prison in 1996, he was charged with possessing a controlled substance inside a corrections facility. In 2005, while visiting his probation officer downtown, he was found to have cocaine base.

His mother, Theresa Beal, wrote a letter to the court in 2005 pleading for leniency for her son.

"Deep down in my heart I feel my son never really had a chance in life," she wrote. "I know he's no Angel, yet he isn't the worse (sic) person either."

Beal wrote that her son was 15 when he was 'shot ten times and left for dead." Beal wrote that her son was carrying a pistol for protection when he was arrested and taken to juvenile detention.

Patrick M. O'Connell, Joel Currier, Valerie Schremp Hahn, Marlon A. Walker and Denise Hollinshed, all of the Post-Dispatch, contributed to this report.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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