Young St. Louis police officer fatally shot; colleagues seek killer

Friday, August 17, 2007
St. Louis police officers searched for evidence Thursday in St. Louis near the scene where a fellow officer was shot and killed the night before. Officer Norvelle Brown, 22, was responding to a call on the city's north side when he was shot just before 10 p.m. Wednesday. Police continued to search for the gunman on Thursday. (HUY RICHARD ~ Belleville News-Democrat)

Police have received reports of up to three men running from the area after the shooting.

ST. LOUIS -- Norvelle Brown was by all accounts the kind of young man a police force seeks out -- a 22-year-old officer who asked to be assigned to the rough area where he grew up, who served as a youth sports coach and a mentor to teens. Earlier this summer he was honored for stopping an armed robbery.

On Thursday, grim officers searched for the person or persons who gunned down the St. Louis officer around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, just nine months after his career began.

"I think it's a national tragedy that so many officers are shot at," police chief Joe Mokwa said at an afternoon news conference, a black band wrapped across his badge. "I go to bed every night with the fear that somebody's going to be injured."

Police are still sorting out the details of Brown's death. Mokwa said the officer was alone patrolling a north St. Louis neighborhood when he apparently approached someone or perhaps a small group of people. Police have received reports of up to three men running from the area after the shooting.

In this undated photo provided by the St. Louis Police Department, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007, St. Louis police officer Norvelle Brown is seen. 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 while apparently responding to a call, according to officials. (AP Photo/St. Louis Police Department)

Brown was wearing a bulletproof vest but the bullet entered through the back of his left shoulder, piercing both lungs, and exited through his right armpit.

Two guns recovered

Brown managed to radio for help. Two officers arrived and administered CPR, then rushed him to Barnes-Jewish Hospital. At about 11 p.m., Mokwa and Mayor Francis Slay announced to a large group of officers, relatives and media that Brown had died.

"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."

Officers have recovered two guns from the area of the shooting -- Brown's service revolver and a .38-caliber gun police suspect was used in the shooting. Mokwa said Brown managed to return fire, but authorities don't know if the suspect or suspects were hit.

Police conducted a ground and aerial search and brought in dogs, but had no 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.

Robert Stanze was shot to death 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.

Patrolling alone

Mokwa said limited resources simply do not allow the department to place two officers in every car. He said the majority of street officers patrol alone.

"From a safety standpoint do I wish every car had two officers? I do," Mokwa said. "It's just not practical."

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 semiautomatic pistol.

"Officer Brown was quite an asset to the department," Mokwa said.

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."

Funeral arrangements for Brown have not been set.

On the Net:

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