Connor Cervantes, a grandson of former St. Louis mayor Alfonso J. Cervantes, was shot during an alleged drug transaction on Monday, November 17, according to a St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department incident report.
Police say a fifteen-year-old suspect was taken into custody three days after the shooting and that a second suspect remains at large.
The account that follows is based on the police incident report, a summary of the incident released by the police department and details confirmed by a source in the department with knowledge of the incident who requested not to be identified by name. (Click here to view a full-size version of the police incident report.)
Cervantes, who is seventeen years old and attends Clayton High School, and a schoolmate, Sam Ryan, who is eighteen, had arranged to meet a mutual acquaintance late in the evening of November 17, on the parking lot shared by the Pilates Center and a Subway franchise at 1015 McCausland Avenue, just inside the St. Louis city limits.
A person who Cervantes and Ryan believed to be their acquaintance arrived wearing a red hat and ski mask. The perpetrator took $20 from Ryan and shot Cervantes twice with a handgun. The incident occurred between 11 and 11:30 p.m.
Ryan drove Cervantes, who was bleeding from gunshot wounds to each arm, to an area hospital and then called police. Cervantes was treated and released.
On November 20 police arrested a fifteen-year-old boy, a former Clayton High student who had transferred to the Collaborative School, an alternative school that serves the districts of Kirkwood, Clayton, Brentwood and Ladue. According to police, the boy is the acquaintance Cervantes and Ryan had arranged to meet. He faces felony charges of first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Police expect juvenile court officials to ask the court to certify him as an adult at a hearing that will likely take place in early 2009.
The incident report indicates that the shooting was related to "drug dealing," though no details are specified. Police say the investigation is ongoing; the driver of the suspect's getaway car is still at large.
Cervantes, the son of insurance magnate and civic booster Barry Cervantes, was using the family's Lincoln Navigator at the time of the incident, according to a police source.
Barry Cervantes tells Riverfront Times that he had returned from a trip to Montreal and was retiring for the night when he received a call from the hospital saying his son had been shot. Cervantes says his son was staying with his mother at the time. (The couple is divorced.)
"Right now we're trying to have my son and the other kid heal from this trauma," says Cervantes. "The church has been very supportive, friends have been very supportive and family, of course. "
As to the mention of "drug dealing" on the incident report, Cervantes says, "I'm surprised to hear you say that. This is a pure robbery situation, and we've talked to the police involved. So I don't know what else to tell you on that. That's not the case. "
Cervantes, who is a trustee of the Saint Louis Science Center and sits on a board at Saint Louis University's John Cook School of Business, sold Gateway Insurance Company, an insurer of taxicabs, for a reported $20 million in late 2005. He is now a professional life coach. His father, Alfonso J. Cervantes, who died in 1983, was also in the insurance business and at one time owned the majority stake in the Laclede Cab Co. A.J. Cervantes was mayor of St. Louis from 1965 to 1973.
Clayton High students, faculty and parents have heard rumblings about the incident for the past two weeks, but little has emerged to separate truth from rumor.
According to the school's director of communications, Chris Tennill, police contacted administrators the morning after the incident. On Saturday, November 22, principal Louise Losos left a short, automated voicemail for parents.
"I want to reassure you that your students are safe and that the safety of our students continues to be our top priority," Losos said in the recorded message. "The fact that this is an ongoing investigation prevents me from providing you with too many details," she said, adding only that the students allegedly involved had either been "taken into custody" or were otherwise "accounted for."
Losos noted that police had told her they believed the incident to have been an isolated one.
She reached out to the school community again on December 2 via her online "Principal's Blog," noting that the alleged assailant has been suspended from school and that "the other students have returned to classes and are working on making their lives normal once again."
Concluded Losos: "Choices. Every day we make them, large and small. The impact of each choice sets our feet down a path, a path with many turns and curves, but a path nonetheless. All the students involved made choices that night. Take the opportunity you have to talk to your student about the choices they have in life, opportunities gained or missed, decisions they make and the impact it has on their lives; talk to them about the control they have over their own lives, and help them make good choices."