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St. Louis Bosnians Meet With Police, Talk Public Safety After Two Tragic Immigrant Shootings

Haris-Gogic-image.jpg
via Facebook
Haris Gogic.
Two of the recent high-profile shootings in the city of St. Louis shared a common, tragic thread: immigrant who came here for a better life becoming victims of senseless, random violence.

Haris Gogic, a nineteen-year-old Bosnian immigrant was shot and killed inside his convenience store on May 31 right in front of his older brother. That robber was later arrested and charged in the tragic shooting that killed Gogic, injured his brother and earned the suspect about $30 in cash. Just a week later, Mon Rai, a 29-year-old Bhutanese refugee, was killed working the night shift in a St. Louis 7-Eleven. That suspect remains unknown and on the loose, and Rai's widow just gave birth this week to their baby daughter who will grow up in St. Louis without a father.

Members of the local Bosnian community in St. Louis are speaking out against the violence that some worry will encourage immigrants to leave the city -- or discourage them from moving here in the first place.

See also:
- Joseph Fox Charged In Robbery, Murder of Haris Gogic, 19, Store Owner
- Slain Refugee's Heartbreaking Essay About St. Louis: "My Heart Was Full Of Hopes"
- Mon Rai: Police Release Images Of Suspect, Witness In 7-Eleven Shooting (PHOTOS)

"It is important because there are people like me who want to stay in the city and who want to raise their children in the city," Sadik Kukic, president of the Bosnian Chamber of Commerce, tells Daily RFT. "The neighborhood gets scared. People get scared in the American community and in the Bosnian community.... They are both scared for their properties and their houses and their families."

On Wednesday night, the organization held a meeting with several city law enforcement officials including Metropolitan Police Chief Sam Dotson, who has lead the department through a particularly violent few weeks.

mon-rai-image.jpg
St. Louis International Institute/Wayne Crosslin
Mon Rai.

Police officials told residents that they are increasing patrols and will remain in regular contact with businesses and others concerned about the crime. In the wake of the latest violence, Dotson has called for harsher sentencing for offenses involving firearms. On Wednesday, he also encouraged residents to show up to court for sentencing hearings related to crimes that affected them or their neighborhoods.

Here are two tweets from Dotson about the meeting:

Kukic says it was a productive meeting, and that he wants to ensure that immigrant families and other St. Louis city residents don't flee for the county and elsewhere in response to the tragedies.

"I think the police are going to pay more attention to what is going on," says Kukic, a 46-year-old Bosnian refugee who, as of this September, will have been here for twenty years. He has been a citizen since 2001 and has run the Taft Street Restaurant and Bar on Gravois Avenue for about ten years.

"This is a great country, probably the best," he says. "But we have a choice. We don't have to live in south city.... But I would like to see [people] stay."

Both fatal shootings with immigrant victims happened in the Bevo neighborhood, and Kukic says he wants police to do everything possible to actively prevent crime in this area.

Thumbnail image for mirza-gorgic-2.jpg
via Facebook
Haris and Mirza Gogic.

"We are going to keep patrolling. We are going to keep our eyes open," he says.

"St. Louis is a great place to live. I just think we have to put up a fight sometimes," Kukic says, "because everywhere there is a few bad apples and we have to fight those apples in order to have the safest place."

Speaking of Gogic's death, he says, "It was very hard for every member in our community, because...the way I felt that day when I heard what happen. It's like one of my own family."

He says he had met both Gogic brothers and says that Mirza, the older one who survived, is still recovering.

Still, no matter how hard residents and police work to combat crime, he says, "We cannot bring his brother back."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.



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24 comments
Manju Pandey Owoso
Manju Pandey Owoso

If locals learnt the immigrant values of hard work and importance of education, crime would disappear but then that seems to be asking too much. Easier to loot than get a job. After all you will get released from prison sooner or later. Sad!

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

How can Bosnians let properties be run down if that whole area is complete shit. Even if they wanted to they couldn't make it worse. Just by living there and actually working they are doing better than the locals whose past time activities are shootings, robbing and cooking meth. You have to be grateful such a big Bosnian community lives there putting their life on the line trying to bring that area back from obscurity to say the least. What privileges do immigrants have ? There is nothing an immigrant will have that a native won't lol Are you one of those Americans that are jealous cause you saw a few Bosnian kids riding around in a Mercedes? Cut your cable off, get an extra job and u'll ride around in a BMW too. Some of the things you said are true. That you have to adapt, no arguing. However, your overall attitude is negative towards immigrants. I guess I should have read more than just "I'm a fan of diversity". If you are a fan of diversity you will know that no matter who moves i,n there will always be a few bad apples.

Tayana Grubor
Tayana Grubor

I know where Long Middle is, I worked there for 7 years and that neighborhood started deteriorating when Bosnians migrated to So. County. It's still called "Little Bosnia" because of the businesses operating in the area, not because Bosnians actually populate it.

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

Police can patrol all they want...that is not going to fix the problem. The problem is that these criminals are opportunistic. They are gonna wait until there is no police presence, then, attack without warning. These immigrants need to have CCW and have weapons on hand. South St. Louis and North St. Louis are like the wild west right now. People must protect themselves. You cannot throw a phone at robber, and they are not gonna wait around for the cops to show up. The neighborhoods might consider hiring an armed security guard who would patrol multiple businesses at one time. Perhaps a retired military person would be great for this job? We need to take this city back from the idiots who want to destroy it by being thugs.

Stephanie Kelley
Stephanie Kelley

I grew up in S.St.Louis and went to Long Middle...right across from Bevo. I would walk around as a kid with no concerns. I do not even let my children visit that neighborhood anymore. I still live not far from there. St.Louis has always been a melting pot and that is awesome. The difference is when I was a kid the people who moved here from other countries were treated like everyone else. The newer generation of immigrants think we owe them something. They do not feel the need to learn the language or move away from the wonderful immigrant services that the community provides. I am not speaking of 60+ people with a language barrier. I am speaking of parents young enough to have kids in grade school and middle school. I welcome everyone...I just want them to be treated like everyone else. No special privileges or responsibilities....and learn to speak English.

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker

I hope not. I have had the opportunity to be in the Bosnian community for extended periods of time. They are really interesting people. They treated me very well. I wouldn't mind buying a house in the new community that they have created in Bevo. They are fixing up a lot of houses that otherwise would have just gone to waste. I like that St. Louis has become so welcoming to incoming immigrants that come here legally.

Tayana Grubor
Tayana Grubor

I do agree as far as language is concerned, but you have to keep in mind that older folks, and I'm talking 60 and above, will most likely never be completely fluent in English and I think this is understandable. Now as far as runned-down properties, bad parenting, and general chaos is concerned, I feel this is a total misrepresentation and a biased perspective. Please do not generalize your argument based on isolated cases. I live in the mentioned area and know hell of a lot more natives who live like pigs and could use intensive parenting classes. Are you aware of what Bevo area looked like before Bosnians moved in? I think you've said enough with your "Do I believe all Bosnians need to leave" statement. I sincerely hope you don't work for the school system.

Philip Nations
Philip Nations

St Louis Bosnians are here because they were given asylum from the atrocities against them in the Bosnian war - rape camps, etc. They are not immigrants. They are refugees. Since no one knows.

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

I totally agree that when you immigrate , the immigrant is the one that should change and acclimate not everybody else around them.

Nathan Nico Vize
Nathan Nico Vize

Well it definitely won't help; regardless, I don't think recent shootings will have any more effect than past shootings.

Tony Compton
Tony Compton

Oh, Ray, you're such an ass, and you don't even know it.. If I weren't a decent person I would say you need shot too.. But, then where would I get free entertainment?

Joshua Lewis
Joshua Lewis

Of course they will. St Louis has some of the best immigration and refugee service organizations in the country. And you'd be surprised at the diversity if you really look.

Stephanie Kelley
Stephanie Kelley

I am a fan of diversity. I am NOT a fan of how St.Louis treats their immigrants....or how groups of them act. We have people that move here for a better life, but they do not want to learn the language or be self sufficient (NOT all...SOME) There are entire neighborhoods that are full of Bosnians that let the properties be run down, they do not watch their children and they create chaos....Lemay/Affton is guilty for this. The school is full of kids with no parental control because the parents have never bothered to learn the language or our customs...so it is hard for the schools to communicate. Do I believe all Bosnians need to leave? Absolutely not...but I do think that they need to acclimate to our language and societal standards...I would not move to France and expect anyone to figure me out or my way of living.

Neil Aimaro
Neil Aimaro

Recent? Um St. Louis has more than just a recent history of shootings and crime within it's borders. The one major thing that turns people off about the city is the way it looks. We need to rebuild St. Louis to be the great city that it should be. Another down side of St. Louis is that it is geared towards the older generation. There are not a lot of fun things for young people to do in the city and by young I don't mean between the ages of 5 and 12.

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

i`m serious as a heart attack about that statement

Jessi Anderson
Jessi Anderson

that is a horrible thing to say...I hope you aren't serious and if you are you should watch what you say on a public site that everyone can see (you are embarrassing yourself)

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

The inhospitable attitude of the locals is what discourages immigrants ( legal or illegal ) from moving to the area. Baltimore which was a slum for years has been completely revitalized by South-Asian immigrants. Thats not happening any time soon in Saint Louis. Rest in peace to those good folks

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

it sux that one chicks man got killed but now it is time for her and her new baby to go home where family is or else every taxpayer will be her only means of support

Ray Thomas
Ray Thomas

all illegals in this state and country should be shot

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