- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2015

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Federal prosecutors in St. Louis announced the indictments of five men Wednesday for two separate killings, the first charges brought since the police chief reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s office to help stem violence in the city.

U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan said in a statement that the indictments are part of the effort to tackle the city’s growing homicide rate. St. Louis has already had nearly 100 killings this year, up 45 percent from this time a year ago. The 159 killings in 2014 rose 30 percent from 2013.

Police Chief Sam Dotson has said he was taking more cases to the feds, citing the increase in violence and concerns about an amendment to the Missouri Constitution. St. Louis officials say Amendment 5, passed last year, makes it difficult to get charges to stick against convicted felons caught with guns.

“I’m dealing with a state court where a guy can shoot at a cop and get (probation),” Dotson said earlier this month.

Missouri voters passed Amendment 5, which declared the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable.” Dotson and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce said the amendment is a roadblock in getting guns out of the hands of felons through state courts, though backers said that was not the intent.

The new indictments are related to killings in 2010 and earlier this year.

Walter Wallace Jr., 27, and Jerry Chambers, 36, face charges that include marijuana conspiracy and possession and use of a firearm in furtherance of drug trafficking resulting in death. That case was related to the killing of Michael Hayes on Dec. 18, 2010. Neither suspect has a listed attorney.

The second indictment is related to shootings on March 27 that killed James Lacey, Paige Schaefer and Tammie Thurmond. The indictment names Jacobi Temple, Demante Syms and Samuel Spires, all 23.

All three face drug conspiracy and gun charges, and are accused of drug trafficking resulting in the death of Thurmond. Temple was additionally charged with possessing and using a firearm while drug trafficking that resulted in the deaths of Lacey and Schaefer.

Syms and Spires do not have listed attorneys. A message left with Temple’s attorney was not returned.

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