ST. LOUIS (AP) — A gunman who killed two utility workers in St. Louis before killing himself had a long criminal history, including drug and assault convictions, along with financial troubles leading to bankruptcy, court records show.
Police on Friday identified the gunman as Clinton Willis, who lived about a mile from where the Laclede Gas employees were shot Thursday. Police identified the slain workers as Alex Boschert, 27, and William Froelich, 52.
Police declined to discuss a possible motive, saying only that the shooting did not appear to be racially motivated. Willis was black and both workers were white.
Willis’ criminal history dates back more than 20 years and includes convictions on drug trafficking, assault and armed criminal action. Court records show he was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1997. Willis also filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and emerged from it the following January, according to court records.
Police said Willis walked up to the workers in a residential area of western edge of St. Louis and opened fire without saying a word. Both workers were shot in the chest; the gunman was shot in the head, and a gun was found next to him.
The shooting prompted precautions from several utilities. Laclede Gas and the electric company Ameren Missouri took workers off the city’s streets Thursday, and Missouri American Water and the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District removed workers from the immediate area of the shooting.
Workers for all four utilities were back in the field Friday, but working with an abundance of caution.
Laclede Gas spokeswoman Jenny Gobble said as employees reported for work they were given safety instructions, but she declined to elaborate.
Boschert’s family issued a prepared statement to The Associated Press that remembered him as “a hard-working young man who loved the outdoors and being on the farm,” adding that “he treasured his family and his friends.”
Missouri American Water spokesman Brian Russell said meter readers and other workers who typically work alone were given the option of working in pairs. The utility will also consider long-term changes. “Our security team is going to review what happened after we get more details from police,” Russell said.
Sewer district spokesman Lance LeComb said field workers were reminded “that if you see something amiss or that doesn’t look right or makes you nervous, get someplace you feel safe and as quickly as possible call 911.” Ameren said the company and workers “engaged in a healthy discussion about safety and maintaining situational awareness” before they were sent out Friday.
The shooting came two days after a man wanted in the slaying of a security guard gunned down three men, including a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. employee, in unprovoked attacks in downtown Fresno, California. Kori Ali Muhammad, 39, who is black, was arrested shortly after the rampage, and posts on what appeared to be his Facebook page discussed wanting to kill white people.
Manyika McCoy told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the workers were connecting gas service to a home she was moving into — one was using a jackhammer and another was in a backhoe. She said she was at her mother’s house nearby when she saw a man walking purposefully down the street toward the workers.
“I heard pop, pop,” said McCoy, 37.
The worker in the backhoe “was saying, ‘Wait, wait,‘ and the guy just kept shooting at him,” she said. The worker eventually collapsed in the street, she said.
Laclede, a natural gas distribution utility that serves the St. Louis area and portions of southeast Missouri, said it was “heartbroken” by the shooting.
St. Louis has one of the nation’s highest homicide rates. The city recorded 188 killings in both 2015 and 2016 and had 45 this year through April 18, according to police.
New Mayor Lyda Krewson has said creating a safer city is among her top priorities. On Wednesday, her first full day in office, she announced that Police Chief Sam Dotson was retiring, though he will stay on as a consultant for one year.
Associated Press reporter Jim Suhr contributed to this story from Kansas City, Missouri.