ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Four people were shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide inside a Cherokee Street business Thursday afternoon.
Ambulances and police cars responded to the scene at 2715 Cherokee Street at 1:29 p.m. The Cherokee Place Business Incubator is housed at that location and is home to many small businesses.
St. Louis Police Capt. Michael Sack said in a press conference around 3:25 p.m. that the three victims were employees of a health care business, later confirmed to be A K Home Health Care. According to police, the shooter, later identified as Ahmed Dirir, 59, of north St. Louis, appeared to have gotten into an argument with employees at the business prior to opening fire.
“There is surveillance video that shows a male in an apparent verbal dispute, and shortly thereafter, gunshots are shown penetrating a wall inside of the business,” St. Louis Police spokesperson Schron Jackson said in a press release. “The male suspect is believed to be the owner of the business, and the other three victims are believed to be employees.”
Those employees were identified Thursday night as Seaeed Abdulla, a 29-year-old male, and two females: Khadra Muse, 44, and Bernice Solomon-Redd, 54.
Abdulla and Muse lived in St. Louis at the time of the shooting; Solomon-Redd was living in East St. Louis.
The shooting closed a large swath of Cherokee Street between Ohio Avenue and Iowa Avenue Thursday afternoon.
Police said around 2:20 that the scene was not an active shooter situation and that homicide detectives were being brought in.
A witness at the nearby Waberi Store said that two women came running out of the building and into the store to call police. A man who owns another business across the street says A K Home Health Care’s owners and operators were peaceful people, Somali immigrants who have lived in the area for years.
“I can’t tell you exactly when they [came] but they’re Americans,” he said.
Several people arrived at the murder scene soon after the shootings had ended, identified themselves to witnesses as Somalians who knew A K Home Health Care’s owners, and broke down in tears as police described what had occurred.
The killings also caught the attention of patrons at a nearby cafe on Cherokee. Ann Williamson was at the Melt cafe when the police stormed the shooting scene.
“Initially I saw several officers arrive with their guns drawn and they entered in the front of the Business Incubator and then gradually more police officers arrived,” she explained.
Williamson says police handcuffed three apparent witnesses from the business incubator, a man and two women, and brought them over to the cafe to question them. One of the women was said to be sobbing heavily.
Attorney Brian Edwards, whose law office is near the Cherokee Place Business Incubator, says he was surprised to hear of the shooting.
“Because this neighborhood has been doing nothing for the past ten years but getting better,” he said. “The properties have been getting better, the properties have become more populated with businesses.”
Edwards calls the Cherokee Street business district one of the crown jewels in St. Louis.
“It is quite disappointing to hear that this has happened but I do not think in any way it is a reflection of this particular neighborhood,” he said.
Around 3:15, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s Chief of Staff Jeff Rainford posted on Twitter that the shooting was a murder-suicide.
News of the shooting reached Mayor Slay in Clayton where he was attending a seminar on city-county cooperation with start up companies. The Mayor quickly got up and was in the hallway working his phone to find out more.
“We’re in close contact with police. Every indication is that the victims knew each other,” he told reporters at the event. “It looks like this was an isolated incident. It was not a random situation and I think from that standpoint…if you look at it from that standpoint, I think you have to keep it in isolation.”