St. Louis, MO – Retired St. Louis Police Sergeant Ralph Harper was murdered outside a family member’s home during a gunfight with a carjacking suspect on Monday.
Sgt. Harper, 67, had just dropped off his wife and was parking his vehicle at approximately 7:30 a.m., when the unidentified attacker approached him, The Kansas City Star reported.
“He and his wife were babysitting kids that they did for family all the time,” his friend, Kevin Cummins, told KSDK.
The retired sergeant exchanged gunfire with the assailant, and both were hit during the altercation, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Neighbors told police they heard four or five shots, then saw a man run into the alley.
The gunman fled the scene in a Honda Pilot SUV, and was later dropped off at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital with a gunshot wound to his wrist.
He was described as a teenage male.
Sgt. Harper called 911 in the wake of the attack, and was rushed to the hospital with an escort of police cruisers.
He was pronounced dead approximately two hours later.
When officers located the Honda SUV, the unnamed driver sped off again, leading officers on a pursuit into the area of South Jefferson Avenue and Allen Avenue.
The chase ended when the suspect vehicle slammed into a building at approximately 10 a.m.
Officers apprehended two uninjured occupants, one of whom was described as a juvenile. Their level of involvement in Sgt. Harper’s murder remains under investigation.
Police also determined that the SUV had been stolen on Oct. 23.
“The Missouri Fraternal Order of Police regrets to inform of the murder of retired Sgt. Ralph Harper, who was the victim of an attempted carjacking this morning,” the union said in a Facebook post. “Ralph returned fire and injured the suspect. We believe all suspects are in custody. Please pray for family.”
Sgt. Harper retired from the St. Louis Police Department in 2007, after 33 years of service, St. Louis Police Chief John Hayden told the Riverfront Times.
“This is…very close to home because I knew the sergeant personally,” Chief Hayden reporters outside the hospital, choking back tears. “We are all mourning together…This is a very challenging…very challenging time.”
Sgt. Harper came from a long line of law enforcement officers, St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) Business Manager Jeff Roorda told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Following in the footsteps of their father, Sgt. Harper and his three brothers all served with the department.
Altogether, the Harper family, one of the “most well-known families in the police department,” served the agency for over 200 years, according to Roorda.
“He was a sweet man, a genuine, caring individual,” retired St. Louis Police Sergeant David Bonenberger told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Even though he was a sweet, teddy-bear kind of guy, when it hit the fan, you were glad he was there with you. You’d follow him.”
“It's a sad thing when you give multiple decades of service and now you think, ‘I'm retired, everything's safe,’ you don't have to worry about coming home every night,” Cummins told KSDK. “To see that he was gunned down. I think it's a terrible tragedy.”