ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The St. Louis NAACP says gaps in the system contributed to a 13-year-old girl shooting the owners of a Bellefontaine Neighbors beauty supply store last July.
At a news conference during which he promised to put pressure on legislators to make funding and systemic changes, NAACP President Adolphus Pruitt said the system failed the teenager.
The girl, who is awaiting trial, allegedly shot the man and woman in their 70s during her third visit that day to the Kings Beauty store on Lewis and Clark Boulevard.
Earlier, the owners kicked the girl and a friend out of the store for stealing hair extensions. They returned later causing a disturbance, after which the girl’s friend was arrested on an outstanding juvenile warrant. The couple agreed to allow the girl, who investigators say would later shoot them, to go free. A short time later the 13-year-old allegedly returned and shot the two, leaving them in critical condition.
Standing near a poster of the girl reading, “This is not a monster, it’s a child crying out for help,” Pruitt said, “The parents reached out to both law enforcement and the medical community when the child was acting out, seeking help. And didn’t get the help they sought.”
Pruitt says that because she had been exposed to drugs in the womb, the girl was taken into state custody shortly after birth. After her parents completed required parental training, she was returned to them. However, there was no extensive follow-up.
Up until the fourth grade, Pruitt says, the girl performed “fairly decent.” When she started having behavioral problems in the fourth or fifth grade, she was sent to an alternative school, the ACE Learning Center, and did well.
However, he says, she began having problems again in seventh or eighth grade — the time her new school district refused to pay for her transportation to ACE.
Because her father is legally blind, and mother does not have a vehicle, he says the girl could not attend.
Pruitt says it was within nine months that the shooting occurred.
At one time, the parents thought the girl was having issues because of her prenatal drug exposure, he says. They took her to a north county healthcare facility that has the ability to provide psychological analysis. The facility, which Pruitt would not identify, returned the child less than an hour later, saying that she was OK.
That, he says, points out one way the system is failing.
“If parents take their children to facilities and they think [there] are problems, then some sort of extensive examination needs to be provided so we can identify children who may have issues going forward and get them the intervention they need.”
Another example Pruitt points to came after the girl ran away from home.
He says after police found the girl, the officers told her parents that the next time she runs away, “let her be out there, ‘cuz we’re going to wind up getting her anyway.”
“I guess they were right,” Pruitt says, “two shots later, both hospitalized, families torn apart and they got her later.
“Law enforcement has to be brought into this picture, where they have the ability to identify these sort of problems at an early stage and we have to find mechanisms to work with them on those children they identify to ensure they get the intervention they need, and that intervention does not need to be future arrests down the road.”
On the day of the shooting, Pruitt says, the girl and another teen smoked marijuana laced with K-2 with an adult. After the shooting, that adult took her to Columbia, Missouri, where she hid until her parents contacted her on social media and convinced her to surrender.
She is currently in family court custody awaiting a hearing this week, on whether she’ll be tried as an adult.
Pruitt says the girl is remorseful. He believes with more effective help, she never would have been in a position to pull the trigger.
“Whenever she got the intervention,” he says, “that intervention made a difference. When she did not get that intervention, she swayed into where she is at now.”
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