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Wounded St. Louis police officer gets hero's welcome at Board of Aldermen

St. Louis Police officer Tom Lake (in the blue tie) poses for a picture with St. Louis aldermen on Friday.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Police officer Tom Lake (in blue tie) poses for a picture with St. Louis aldermen on Friday.

In some respects, the fact that Tom Lake was able to stand before the Board of Aldermen is breathtaking.

The St. Louis Police Department sergeant was shot in the face less than a month ago while driving in his car in south St. Louis. He survived his injuries, and received a rousing welcome from city aldermen on Friday.

With wounds from the shooting still visible near his cheek, Lake told reporters was “doing as good as anybody could expect after the trauma that’s happened.”

“And I’m trying to take one day at a time and move forward with my kids and with my health,” Lake said. “... the outside just shows one part of what’s going on. I’m just thankful to be here.”

Lake was driving on Hampton Avenue in southwest St. Louis last month when a car pulled up on his left side. The driver, later identified as George P. Bush III, shot him twice in the face. Police eventually shot and killed Bush.

Throughout his career as a police officer, Lake has worked in all parts of St. Louis. At a time when there’s an intense local and national debate over the perception of police, Lake said there’s robust support for rank and file officers.

“I believe that every citizen loves the police, because we’re the person that they call when they need help,” Lake said. “I think some of the frustration comes in that the laws and systems are not working the way that some people feel they are – and we are the first ones to be blamed for that. So, we as police officers understand some of that anger that comes toward us.”

St. Louis Police Sgt. Tom Lake talks with reporters on Friday.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis Police Sgt. Tom Lake talks with reporters on Friday.

After news of Lake’s shooting spread throughout St. Louis and the nation, hundreds of people gathered for a prayer vigil near his home in St. Louis Hills. Lake said the outpouring of support sent a big message.

“There were people from all over the city at that prayer vigil. The one thing that breaks my heart is that I couldn’t go out there and thank each and every person who was out there,” Lake said. “That wasn’t about me. That was about people saying ‘enough’s enough.’ This city has to change. We have to make it better. That’s the challenge. And that’s what I hope we can do with the new mayor, the aldermen – everybody. We got to figure out how to make this city great again. That’s what we have to.”

Lake said residents of St. Louis need to find ways to make the city safe for everybody, including “the citizens that live here that pay the taxes that move forward to help this city.” He said part of that effort includes making sure young people have “outlets to other avenues than violence.”

“We have to develop a program for these children to make them better. And that goes with teachers. That goes with lawmakers. That goes with everybody,” Lake said. “Everybody has to take a stand and say ‘We’re going to help the youth of today become better leaders for tomorrow.’ And if we don’t do that, we’ve lost. We might as well turn the lights out, lock the building up, and get on a boat and leave.

“And that’s the challenge that we all have before us,” he added.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that a fundraiser for Lake will take place on Dec. 22 at Bartolino's restaurant. 

Aldermen give initial OK to Ballpark Village expansion

Meanwhile, the Board of Aldermen is close to backing a tax incentive package to expand Ballpark Village. 

The possible expansion of Ballpark Village would include a mix of retail, entertainment office and residential space.
Credit St. Louis Cardinals
The possible expansion of Ballpark Village would include a mix of retail, entertainment office and residential space.

The St. Louis Cardinals and their development partner Cordish are planning a $220 million expansion, which includes a 29-story luxury apartment building, an office building, retail space and parking. The $65 million tax incentive request includes local and state inducements. (Click here to read more about the proposal.)

Aldermen voted 17-6 to give initial approval to the proposal. Alderman Jack Coatar, D-7th Ward, said Ballpark Village’s expansion could provide a big jolt to Downtown St. Louis’ economy.

“This project will bring more density, more people Downtown,” said Coatar, whose ward includes Downtown St. Louis. “It will help us attract and retain office tenants in the central business district. And it’s a good project.”

Critics of the proposal questioned whether St. Louis’ government should expend tax incentives to foster high-income development, especially when the city is dealing with crime and disinvestment.

“The 63118 ZIP code has a poverty ratio of 30 percent. Over 30 percent of our housing units are vacant,” said Alderman Cara Spencer, D-20th Ward. “We have humongous needs across our city, many of which are not being addressed.”

Aldermen still need to give the expansion final approval before it goes to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.

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