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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Authorities say five people were fatally shot and several others wounded in St. Louis in a 24-hour span this past weekend, just days after the city’s police chief announced a substantial drop in violent crime.

Police found the first victim, 33-year-old John Watson, dead around 7:40 p.m. Saturday in a vacant lot. Police responded around 4 a.m. Sunday to the fatal shootings of two other people — 24-year-old Brian Henley and 25-year-old Kevin Brown. Henley, a woman, was found in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with an uninjured 3-year-old girl inside, and Brown was in the street.

The fourth victim, 53-year-old Darren Avery, was found around 12:30 p.m. Sunday near a sidewalk. The fifth victim, 27-year-old Kourtney Steed, was found dead in a home just before 5 p.m. Sunday.

Twenty-four-year-old Romello Thomas was charged with first-degree murder in Steed’s death, but no suspects have been identified in the other killings. Police say there was no connection between the four homicide scenes. They said one involved a domestic situation and two others were drug-related. The circumstances of the fourth were unknown.

Weekend shootings also left several people wounded, including two men who survived gunshot wounds to the chest.

The violence came after Chief John Hayden presented figures Wednesday along with a strategic plan of action for 2019 during a town hall meeting. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Hayden cited figures showing that St. Louis had 174 homicides through mid-December, before this past weekend’s killings, compared to 205 last year, a 20-year high .

Robberies are down 25 percent, with 469 fewer reported. Burglary is down 6.2 percent and larceny is down 3.3 percent. Reported rapes rose 5 percent.

Hayden, who became chief in December 2017 , implemented a strategy of increased policing in an area of north St. Louis where much of the violence has traditionally occurred.

“We’ve seen a significant decrease in crime where it was happening the most,” Hayden said.

Strategies used in the targeted area included cracking down on open-air drug markets, increased visibility in traffic patrols and ticketing, assistance from the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, an increase in security cameras and license plate reading cameras, and implementing community programs to engage with residents.

Hayden said the department intends to implement two more areas of focus in 2019.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch,