By Brandie Piper
ST. LOUIS – Murder charges have been filed against 17-year-old Robert Mitchell in the death of 32-year-old Zemir Begic, a Bosnian-American who was attacked and killed by youths wielding hammers.
Mitchell faces one count of first degree murder and one count of armed criminal action, according to the chief of police for the metropolitan police department in St. Louis, Sam Dotson.
Police say they now have three suspects in custody, and they’re looking for a fourth.
Begic, 32, early Sunday was killed in an attack that took place in front of his wife, according to police. The attack occurred after an exchange between Begic and the youths, who approached his car and started damaging it, according to CNN.
The stunned and angry Bosnian community in South St. Louis blocked traffic Sunday night.
“That is out of anger because he doesn’t deserve this and most of these people don’t even know him,” Bejic’s wife, Arijana Mujkanovic, said Sunday.
She says she was there and witnessed her husband’s brutal death.
“The last thing he did before he actually died was pull me out of the way and put himself in front of me, basically giving up his life for me,” Mujkanovic says.
Community members began gathering Sunday afternoon, then spilled over into the street. Police showed up, approached the crowd and began to talk.
St. Louis Metropolitan Police Captain Dan Howard rounded up the crowd, told them they had teen suspects in custody.
“One thing you should know we will keep you in the loop,” Captain Howard said.
Police Chief Sam Dotson said they are making good on that promise.
Most of those blocking traffic say they don’t feel safe in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of St. Louis and want to see a change.
“We build this neighborhood here but we are not safe here anymore,” one community member said.
“You are safe,” Captain Howard replied.
The St. Louis area has been the center of protests since late August over the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer in the suburb of Ferguson, Mo. These turned violent in August, and again in late November after a grand jury decided not to press charges against Wilson.
Chief Dotson said Begic’s death was an isolated incident and was not targeted because he was Bosnian.
St. Louis has the largest Bosnian population in the United States. They came to the Bevo Mill neighborhood in the 1990s, escaping the Bosnian war.