A pair of moms picking up their kids from school this week in Midtown St. Louis banded together with hospital security personnel to detain a man who'd barrelled his truck into a school bus, fled the scene and then hid in a Dumpster.
The scary scene played out outside Cardinal Ritter High School, and some of it was caught on video. A woman named Amy, who shared the video with the RFT but asked us not to use her last name, says that what upsets her most is how long it took for police to arrive on the scene, leaving the driver’s apprehension in the hands of two moms and hospital security for 45 minutes.
Amy says that a little before 3 p.m. on September 19 she was waiting to pick up her child at one of the schools near Cardinal Ritter in Midtown when a Ford truck careening down Grandel Square struck a school bus filled with students leaving the high school on North Spring Avenue.
Amy says that she saw a "flash in the corner of my eye" and then looked up just in time to witness the collision. Police have stated that the drivers of the truck and bus both “complained of injury,” but that no students were hurt.
Amy tells the RFT she saw the driver of the truck getting out of his vehicle, holding his head. She didn’t realize it at the time, but he was apparently about to take off on foot.
Amy says she initially drove about half a block away from the school, toward Grand Boulevard, as she expected the road in front of the high school to soon be blocked off with the emergency crews she assumed would arrive in short order.
Then, Amy says, "I hear somebody yell. 'He's running! He's running!' and I see him run in front of my car.”
“I thought someone should at least follow him to track where he goes,” she says. She says she followed the man in her car to an alley by the Urban League building, about half a block away from Cardinal Ritter near the Veteran Affairs Hospital. She started calling 911 — but no one picked up.
Another mom who was in the area to pick up her child from Cardinal Ritter seemingly had the same idea as Amy. The two moms found themselves in pursuit mode, Amy says, combing the area around the Urban League building.
"Did you see him?" Amy says the other mom shouted to her.
"No, I didn't see him," Amy replied.
Amy says she was looking for the driver in the stairwells behind the building when security personnel from the nearby VA Hospital showed up to see what all the commotion was about. "He's either in the bushes or the Dumpsters," Amy told them.
The VA security guards indeed found the man in a Dumpster, hiding out. At this point, after twice calling 911 and twice getting only a recorded message, Amy gave up on calling and started using her phone to record video. (You can see short excerpts from what she recorded below.)
"911 is a joke," she says.
Security personnel from the VA kept the man cornered until the police arrived. However, Amy says that they explained to her that they couldn't actually detain him, as they didn't have the authority. Amy's video shows them coaxing him out of the Dumpster and then pinning him to the ground after he tumbles over its lip, yelling, "Don't kill me."
As Amy's camera rolls, someone shouts, "Where are the police at?"
At one point, the security agents administer Narcan to the suspect. As Amy continues filming, she tracks how long it has taken the police to arrive. Twenty minutes turns into 30 minutes. In lieu of the police, someone suggests they call Fox 2 reporter Elliott Davis.
Amy says it ultimately took 45 minutes for the police to arrive, a delay she says is inexcusable given that a bus filled with children had just been involved in a collision and that the injuries might have been much worse.
"What I saw — and there are other parents that saw, too — is that no ambulance came to these kids' aid for 45 minutes,” she says.
After public outcry over long wait times for emergency services, the city gave police dispatchers a big raise in June. However, the Post-Dispatch reported earlier this week that the SLMPD dispatch center is operating with about two-thirds the number of people they are authorized to employ.
Sergeant Charles Wall with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department tells the RFT that they started getting calls about Tuesday's accident at 2:52 p.m. An officer was dispatched 27 minutes later, he says, and "arrived on the scene shortly after."
The driver was eventually arrested by SLMPD and, according to Wall, was taken to an area hospital. However, the driver apparently didn't stay in custody for long.
According to Wall, the alleged driver "left the area hospital prior to officers arriving at the hospital." Wall adds that he is actively being sought at this time for leaving the scene of an accident.
"The investigation is ongoing," Wall says.
This story has been updated.
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