ST. LOUIS – Homer Johnson drove from north St. Louis County to the Stifel Theatre for Friday night’s concert with Jeffrey Osborne. The trip came hours after a deadly shooting near a homeless encampment.

“Bad things can happen anywhere,” Johnson said.

He has mixed feelings over the clearing of a homeless encampment near city hall.  While he understands why city leaders don’t want an encampment around the old Municipal Courts building on Market Street, he worries about where the people who were living there will go.

Some downtown visitors FOX 2 spoke with believe the city should have removed the encampment sooner. It popped up soon after city leaders cleared a larger encampment at city hall a few months ago. 

Aaron Laxton, a clinical social worker, has advocated for those who are homeless. He was getting his morning coffee a block away when he heard the gunfire Friday and called 911 immediately.

“I don’t expect to hear 20 gunshots ring out behind me, and I don’t expect to drive by and see somebody laying on the ground,” he said.

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Laxton says that while the decision to clear the encampment might give some people a greater sense of security, he believes it does little to address the issue of homelessness. He acknowledges that helping those who are not ready to accept help is a difficult predicament St. Louis leaders have wrestled with for decades.  

“Until we get to the root cause of the social determinants of what’s going on, we’re never really going to see traction,” he said.

Mayor Tishaura Jones released a statement Friday afternoon, stating, “I’m grateful for the SLMPD officer who responded to a shooting incident in progress and upheld his duty to protect and serve. We are taking this incident seriously, and the safety of our residents and staff is paramount. The area will be secured today, and individuals will no longer be permitted to congregate near the building.”