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As summit on gun violence convenes, latest St. Louis homicide victim is announced

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Law and Order

By: Ashley Jost – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 9, 2016

A summit on gun violence got off to a somber but sadly familiar start Thursday with the announcement of a slaying, this one of a man whose father had been fatally shot six years earlier and whose grandmother is a longtime nonviolence activist.

Tyrell A. Thompson, 28, was shot and killed about 1:15 a.m. Thursday in the Central West End after he and his girlfriend were robbed, relatives said Thursday.

He was the oldest son of Tyrone L. Thompson, a former Pagedale police chief who was killed during an attempted robbery in 2010, and the grandson of former state Rep. Betty Thompson, a longtime nonviolence activist.

His death was announced during the opening remarks at the Gun Violence Summit on Thursday morning at Better Family Life Inc. by James Clark, vice president for the nonprofit organization.

Clark, who organized the summit, was a friend of Tyrone Thompson and is an activist against gun violence. The event was aimed at finding solutions for St. Louis’ gun violence problem. It brought together a cross section of those touched by the violence, including a self-proclaimed gang member, a police colonel, the mother of a man convicted of first-degree murder and a trauma surgeon from BJC HealthCare.

“At this hour, we need the men and women who are part of the street to be part of the decision making,” Clark said. “We have to be ready to marry our intellectual prowess with our street leaders and give them the platform to lead.”

Tyrell Thompson’s death early Thursday was a grim reminder of the toll gun violence is taking. His death was the 75th homicide for St. Louis in 2016. There were three more later Thursday, two in the 1300 block of Burd Avenue, and one in the 3500 block of Bingham Avenue. That surpasses by one the 77 homicides police say the city had this time last year. More than 90 percent involved guns.

Police and family said Thompson was walking with his girlfriend, 21, in the 4500 block of Olive Street, near Walton Avenue, when they were robbed. Police say two men got out of a dark-colored car and pulled guns. Thompson fought with a third robber after the men took his belongings, and he was shot.

“We know we aren’t the only family that has been through it,” Betty Thompson, 76, said of her grandson’s death. “A lot of other families have suffered, too. My heart goes out to all of them.”

Tyrell Thompson was a graphic designer at the tech firm LockerDome. His grandmother said he had been trying to follow in the footsteps of his father, Tyrone. The elder Thompson was waiting for a friend in his car in Black Jack when two men tried to rob him at gunpoint on June 5, 2010. The former police chief and the would-be robbers exchanged gunfire and Thompson was fatally shot. He was a consumer fraud investigator with the Missouri attorney general’s office at the time.

“I vow to keep fighting for nonviolence because this killing has got to stop,” Betty Thompson said. “And we can’t blame police, the system or any of that stuff. We have got to do more with our children and teaching love and compassion and caring for one another.”

Tony Thompson, Tyrone’s brother and the CEO of Kwame Construction, lamented the loss of his nephew in an email Thursday.

“The senseless killings are numbing and disheartening when young talented people are being cut down with so much to live for, while these criminals clearly have nothing to live for,” he said.

Kwame Construction is a company started by a third Thompson brother, Kwame.

After the death of Tyrone, the family created an institute in his name within the construction company, offering a tutoring and mentoring program for students who have been suspended from the St. Louis Public Schools.

Such programs were among those brought up as potential solutions to the violence at the gun summit. Many panelists agreed that community policing is important, others insisted that churches need boots on the ground to be a more forceful presence in the lives of young citizens.

City and county officials touted their efforts to create jobs and programs to engage youths. Men and women with firsthand experience in the court system touted a hope for real solutions.

“I’m not doing this for recognition,” said panelist Maurice Hoskins, a volunteer at Better Family Life and a himself a shooting victim. “I’m doing this for those children and I’m trying to make a change in the community.”

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