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St. Louis Officials Call For Larger Police Force, Gun Control After Seven Fatal Shootings In 24 Hours

So far, three people have been arrested in connection with the six unconnected crime scenes. Officials said criminals have become emboldened as officers focus on protests in the region.

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After seven fatal shootings within 24 hours, St. Louis officials asked the community to support police and unite against gun crimes.

Three people have been arrested in connection with the shootings, and police are still seeking other unidentified suspects. The six crime scenes were not connected, but authorities said the violence is part of a trend of "emboldened criminals" with easy access to guns.

"The common denominator is people used guns to settle disputes," St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson said at news conference Thursday. "It's too easy to get a gun and state law makes it too difficult to prosecute gun crimes."

Police are still investigating how each shooter came into possession of firearms.

Dotson added that incidents of crime and violence have increased in recent months as officers have been called away from regular patrols in neighborhoods to focus on protests.

"Criminals have been empowered," he said. "Officers have been distracted."

Dotson added that he plans to return officers to high-crime neighborhoods to do "hot-spot policing." The city is also working on gaining access to real-time feeds of existing surveillance cameras.

"The little crimes grow into larger crimes," he said.

Dotson also called on the community to come together to support officers and public safety. Following protests against police actions in Ferguson, Missouri, Dotson said he's seen trepidation among officers.

"We need to say every life matters," Dotson said. "Stay with us. Support us and support our community."

Mayor Francis Slay, who also spoke at the news conference, renewed his call to hire more police officers.

KSDK / Via ksdk.com

Slay is seeking to add 160 officers to St. Louis' police force, a plan that has drawn some protest.

Hiring more police officers will not help a divided community following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and it doesn't address root causes of crime, a protester told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But Slay said the added police resources will be in addition to efforts to improve economic and educational opportunities in poor communities. Crime is the city's No. 1 issue, though, and Wednesday night's violence proves that, he said.

"This is a black eye on our city,” he said. “It’s impacting families. It’s impacting neighborhoods, and it’s impacting our entire city."

St. Louis police described the seven fatal shootings that occurred within 24 hours:

*A man was killed after a home invasion around 7:25 p.m. Wednesday. A 29-year-old suspect was arrested Thursday morning armed with a handgun.

*A man died around 12:30 a.m. after he was shot during a fight with his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend. A 22-year-old suspect was taken into custody.

*Two men died after a shooting around 12:43 a.m. Thursday. They were confronted by three robbers who have not been identified.

*A hotel night manager was shot and killed in a robbery attempt around 2:50 a.m. Thursday. A suspect has not been identified.

*A woman died after she was shot in her car around 8:17 a.m. Thursday. An acquaintance pulled alongside her vehicle at a stoplight and shot her after they exchanged words, police said. A 49-year-old man was taken into custody, and a gun was recovered.

*Two men were found shot around 5 p.m. Thursday, and one later died at a hospital.

Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Claudia Koerner at claudia.koerner@buzzfeed.com.

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