ST. LOUIS - An argument inside a St. Louis home health care business escalated into gun violence Thursday when a man shot three other people before turning the gun on himself, police said.
The shooting occurred at AK Home Health Care LLC, one several businesses inside the Cherokee Place Business Incubator south of downtown St. Louis. The shooter gunned down another man and two women before turning his semi-automatic handgun on himself, Police Capt. Michael Sack said.
Authorities said the shooter either owned or was a co-owner of the business and his three victims were employees. The victims' names have not been released. Sack said they appeared to be in their early-40s to mid-50s in age. Other details were not available.
"We don't know if this was a thing that carried over into today or was initiated today," Sack said.
An employee of another business in the building heard gunshots and called police.
Other business in the building include an attorney's office and an African bazaar.
A woman wearing African attire showed up about two hours after the shooting and began sobbing loudly when she saw the police scene. She was comforted by onlookers and police. A neighborhood woman translated the woman's outbursts for reporters, saying the woman was worried that a relative was inside the building.
Abdi Salam Elmi, an immigrant from Somalia who drives a cab in St. Louis, said he was close to all four of the dead in Thursday's shooting. He described them as hardworking, friendly people.
"They always smile for me. This is my worst day in my life. It's a very, very sad day for us and a very sad day for the city of St. Louis."
St. Louis has long struggled with urban violence, but the last week has seen a troublesome uptick in bloodshed. Police scrambled late Monday and early Tuesday to respond to five different shootings on the city's north side that left 15 people wounded.
Elmi said as a cab driver he sees too much violence in the city, and he compared St. Louis' struggles to what he left behind in his war-torn African country.
"I feel the same as I did when I left Somalia," he said.
Meant to be a nurturer of startup businesses, the Cherokee Place Business Incubator dates back at least a decade in a once-thriving business section about five minutes south of downtown.
Big retailers later shifted to the suburbs. But that part of town, which has a strong Latino flair, has regained solid footing. New street lighting complimenting welcomed police responsiveness has helped make it safe, according to Jason Deem, a board member and former president of the Cherokee Street Business Association.
Deem called Thursday's bloodshed "a very unfortunate situation for Cherokee" but not reflective of the area as a whole.
"It's not like this type of thing goes on down here. This is very much a shock to us," he said. "Everything police are telling us leads us to believe it was a targeted incident and not some random act of violence."