Homicide 136: Teens Kill Zemir Begic with Hammers, Police Chief Meets with Protesters

Dec 1, 2014 at 7:00 am
click to enlarge Zemir Begic and his wife. - via
Zemir Begic and his wife.

Zemir Begic's family thought they'd be safe in America after escaping war and bloodshed in Bosnia in 1996. So when he was found beaten to death by teenagers with hammers on a south St. Louis street this weekend, it came as a devastating shock.

"We came to America to get away from crime because we were getting killed," says Zemir's sister, Denisa Begic, 23. "We were refugees. Our families were getting killed, their houses got destroyed and bombed. We came to America to escape from this, and what happens? My brother gets murdered in America."

Early Sunday morning, police found Zemir unconscious with injuries to his head, abdomen, face and mouth in the 4200 block of Itaska Street, just a mile south of his home. St. Louis police said a group of teens first attacked his car and then turned their hammers on him when he got out.

The juveniles fled by foot after the attack. Police later took two of the youth into custody: a sixteen-year-old male and a fifteen-year-old male.

Update, 10 a.m.: There' been a new arrest:

"I can't believe this happened to my brother," Denisa tells Daily RFT from South Dakota. "They took something away from us that is our blood. I just wish I could kiss him one last time."

See also: St. Louis Bosnians Unite to Help 2-Year-Old Battling Rare Cancer

St. Louis is home to the largest Bosnian community outside of Bosnia, and as word spread of Zemir's brutal death, dozens of Bosnians gathered at Gravois Avenue and Morganford Road, peacefully shutting down the intersection.

click to enlarge Protesters demonstrating against the death of Zemir Begic draw police to the intersection near Bevo Mill. - Jaime Lees
Jaime Lees
Protesters demonstrating against the death of Zemir Begic draw police to the intersection near Bevo Mill.

St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson told protesters that two suspects were in custody and police are searching for two more. (Update, 10 a.m.: Three suspects are now in custody.)

"There is no indication that the gentleman last night was targeted because he was Bosnian," Dotson told the crowd of more than 70 people. "There was no indication that he was targeted because of who he was or where he came from." The gathering drew police in riot gear -- a not-uncommon site at St. Louis demonstrations after the fatal August 9 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Two people were taken into custody during the pop-up protest. (Editor's note: We'll update when we know more.)

Denisa describes her brother as a talented singer who would drop everything to help a friend or family member. When Denisa's car broke down, he drove out to help her fix it. When a relative needed money for groceries, he gave them what they needed.

"He was an amazing person," Denisa says. "He would give you the clothes off his back."

A family friend launched an online fundraiser to raise money for his funeral arrangements, raising more than $2,500 by Sunday evening.

Denisa says she last spoke to her brother on Thanksgiving and was looking forward to his 33rd birthday on December 7. Begic's brother and friends took to Twitter to share grief and anger over his killing: The murder is at least the 136th St. Louis homicide this year, according to police statistics. There were a total of 120 homicides in St. Louis city in 2013.

Here's the full report from police:

Incident: Homicide

Location: 4200 block of Itaska

Date/Time: 11/30/14 @ 01:15

Victim: Zemir Begic, 32-year old white male of the 4300 block of Miami

Suspect #1: 16-year old black male

Suspect #2: 15-year old Hispanic male

Officers responded to the above location for the victim of an assault and upon arrival, located the victim unconscious with apparent injuries to his head, abdomen, face and mouth. He was conveyed to a hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Investigation revealed the victim was traveling in his vehicle when several juveniles approached his vehicle on foot and began damaging it. The victim exited his vehicle and the juveniles began yelling at the victim and striking him with hammers. After the assault, the juveniles fled the scene on foot. Two juvenile suspects were located and remanded to the custody of Juvenile authorities. The investigation is ongoing.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at [email protected].