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Teens with guns outside St. Louis City Foundry 'released to parents'

"I just want to know where did these kids get the guns. I'm also baffled to hear they were released to their parents," Gail Watkins said.

ST. LOUIS — "I'm baffled as to how did they get these guns? Also, where did they come from?" Gail Watkins said.

Those are the loaded questions Members of Mothers Advocating Safe Streets and other community leaders are asking.

It's after St. Louis police said car thieves targeted lots of parking lots at the City Foundry Saturday night.

Police said a passenger leaned over the roof of a car and repeatedly fired off a rifle in the direction of three teen boys and two officers.

What's more, police said a 15-year-old boy had a Glock 29 equipped with an auto sear on him. That made the gun fully automatic. Officers also said they found a stolen Glock 19 on a 16-year-old boy.

"There's nothing out there to kind of deter them from these guns or committing crimes," Watkins said.

Watkins said city officials must be more proactive when it comes to tackling teen violence.

She also said she thinks creating more positive programs for youth will help keep more kids out of trouble.

"We need to let them know they matter. Some of these kids feel like nobody cares," Watkins added.

Police initially "took the boys into custody," they were released to their parents after "the Juvenile Court was contacted and advised officers to release the juveniles taken into custody to their parent(s)."

"It just baffles me to put them back into the hands of their parents," Watkins said with concern.

Related article: Car thieves target Armory, City Foundry in midtown St. Louis | ksdk.com

Related article: Police shot at while investigating car break-ins at City Foundry | ksdk.com  

"Illegal modifications like auto sears, Glock switches and lightning links can convert semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic ones. Meaning users can hold down the trigger, spray bullets and empty a clip in seconds," St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said.

Jones said the dangerous situation is now a reality on the streets of St. Louis.

The mayor shared her concerns during the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C.

"We've seen a 500% increase in these devices in the region in the last three years and we are working with the ATF to address the rise," Jones said.

No one was hurt when the gunfire rang out.

Police are still investigating this case.

Officials with City Foundry released a statement that said, "safety is their number one priority."

Joel Currier with the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court of St. Louis provided the following statement to 5 On Your Side on Tuesday:

"The 22nd Judicial Circuit has determined that procedures by the St. Louis
City Family Court's intake staff and the city police weren't followed with
regard to the youths held in connection with gunfire Saturday near the City
Foundry. The police did not bring them to juvenile court for detention. No
juvenile legal officer or judge was contacted regarding the incident. 

"Instead, a phone call occurred between the intake office and a police
officer. The parties disagree as to the content of the conversation. 

"As of today's date, none of the juveniles has been brought to St. Louis City
Family Court for referral, detention or charges. Once police present the
youths, a juvenile officer will review the evidence for legal sufficiency
and assess them for detention pursuant to Missouri statutes and Supreme
Court rules."

A Public Safety Department spokesperson provided the following statement regarding the incident: 

"SLMPD officers followed longstanding precedent when calling the Family Court’s intake staff to report apprehended juveniles, just as the Family Court’s intake staff followed longstanding precedent by telling officers to release them to their parents. Saturday’s incident emphasizes the need to formalize the new communication and intake procedures discussed by the Court and SLMPD in recent weeks. The City first reached out to the 22nd Circuit Court last year to discuss gaps in communication and looks forward to formalizing an official procedure in the days ahead to prevent miscommunication and ensure better outcomes.

"The firearms were still seized as evidence, an incident report was still prepared, and a referral will be made with the Family Court, meaning the juveniles may still face criminal charges."

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