JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The top leader in the Missouri Senate is calling on St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to resign after a tragic situation involving a teenage girl over the weekend in St. Louis.
Senate President Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said Wednesday that Gardner is “incompetent and unfit to hold office.” He said he’s going to make it a priority this session to address the issues in the circuit attorney’s office. Democrats who have previously defended Gardner now say it’s time for a change.
“This is a big failure on our prosecutor Kim Gardner,” Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis said. “I’m disappointed in the way our prosecutor handled it, and that may be unpopular to say, but the reality of it is, we have to do some unpopular things right now to ensure that people are safe in our city.”
Janae Edmondson, 17, was in town for a volleyball tournament. While walking to her hotel with family, a driver who was out on bond failed to yield and collided with another vehicle. That vehicle then struck the teen. Both of Edmondson’s legs have been amputated since the collision, and she remains hospitalized in critical condition on Wednesday.
“This all goes back to one individual not being capable to do her job,” Rowden said. “That’s it. It’s not about anything else other than a lack of competence that is making our state less safe and is making that community less safe.”
Rowden tweeted on Twitter Wednesday morning and called on Gardner to resign from her office.
“Kim Gardner is incompetent and grossly unfit to hold her office,” said Rowden, quote tweeting a STLToday.com story. “She should resign, or I will systematically and aggressively work with my colleagues in the #MOLeg to ensure her incompetence isn’t putting more lives in danger. The people of #STL deserve better and Missouri deserves better.”
The accident happened in Aldridge’s district, which defended Gardner and her office two weeks ago when the House was debating a bill that would allow the governor to appoint a special prosecutor in municipalities that have 35 homicide cases per 100,000 people.
“That office needs a 180 turnover,” Aldridge said. “I think there are a lot of folks that support her that have been silent, but this is one of many fumbles of the ball.”
The suspect in the case is 21-year-old Daniel Riley. He was out on the street with a court-ordered GPS monitoring device after he was out on bond relating to a robbery case from August 2020. The case was supposed to go to trial last July but was delayed. Court records show Riley violated his GPS monitoring device more than 50 times, including 10 times in the last month.
“I don’t think this is a partisan issue anymore, I don’t think it’s anything other than us standing up and saying we’re going to do the right thing to help get the crime problem in St. Louis under control,” Rowden said. “We’re going to make this a priority. She’s not a first-time offender here, she repeatedly has not done her job, and the result has been the streets of St. Louis are less safe than they should be.”
Rowden said everything is on the table when it comes to fixing the crime problem in St. Louis.
“I don’t want to big foot in there and say my way or the highway, but in the absence of people like Kim Gardner not being capable or willing to do their job, someone has to do something,” Rowden said. “We cannot let the status quo of St. Louis continue to develop to a place where they are not going to be a contributing part of the state.”
Both Rowden and Aldridge want to apologize to Edmondson’s family for the pain they are going through after coming to Missouri.
“I’m sorry this happened,” Aldridge said. “I will make sure a focus of mine is to be much smarter than I have been on crime because we can’t have another situation like this.”
“I am sorry to that family,” Rowden said. “We have failed them, but hopefully we can create an environment where a situation like this doesn’t occur again.”
The legislation passed by the House, House Bill 301, is currently in the hands of the Senate. Rowden said Wednesday, members are now talking about pushing the legislation forward.
Rep. Raychel Proudie (D-District 73), who represents parts of north St. Louis County, has also been vocal about the tragedy. She referenced a statement Wednesday morning via Twitter from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office and said it’s not enough.
“EVERY. SINGLE. WORD of this statement should have been about Janae Edmondson– instead,” said Proudie, quote-tweeting the statement. “Half of it is political BS. Her TN family has neither any idea of or a damn thing to do with. The Circuit Attorney’s Office did better to have said nothing. Lord, have mercy.”
Another Democratic lawmaker who represents the St. Louis area, Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D-78th District), is also calling for accountability.
“As elected officials, we owe it to the people we serve to take responsibility and own our mistakes when our negligence leads to these kinds of tragedies,” said Aldridge in a statement to FOX 2. “I’m disappointed in Circuit Attorney Gardner’s tone-deaf response that focuses more on herself than the young woman whose life has been irrevocably changed. I hope she reflects on what her office did wrong and how she can do better in the future, so others can visit our great city safely.”
The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office released the following statement on the incident Tuesday:
“A young girl’s life was tragically changed because of the inexcusable behavior of a young man. Our hearts go out to the victim and her family for this unspeakable tragedy that will undoubtedly have a lasting impact not only on her, but her family and loved ones. It’s unfortunate that there are those who choose to twist the facts to take advantage of this situation for their own selfish motives. This is not the time for finger-pointing, it’s time to support this family, and ensure that justice is served.”
“This crime was as preventable as it is tragic. While this tragedy may serve as a turning point in the efforts to strengthen public safety, it only highlights the lingering issues that have gone unaddressed for far too long. We need immediate action. These issues are not new, and solving them requires all of us stepping up and coming together as one metro to develop a regional strategy to reduce crime and strengthen public safety. The ongoing failures of the Circuit Attorney’s office – with regard to the individual involved in this case as well as a litany of other cases that have not been brought to justice – are unforgivable,” states Greater St. Louis, Inc. CEO Jason Hall.
The crash adds to many waves of criticism and challenges facing Gardner’s office. She was previously disciplined last year amid allegations of concealing evidence in a high-profile case. Former Attorney General Eric Schmitt also accused her of concealing evidence in efforts to vacate the conviction of Lamar Johnson.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is also calling for justice for Edmondson’s family.
“It’s a serious crime, and you see what price that young lady paid for it, she’s going to lose both her legs,” Parson said. “Unfortunately, when people hear those stories in our state, it’s never a good day for the state of Missouri as a whole, yet alone the St. Louis region. People will have to be held accountable. We are going to have to go back to those days when repeat offenders and violent offenders are taken off the streets of our state.”