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Vigil Held For Slain Kirkwood Teen

Shelbyon Polk, 19, was Kirkwood High football running back

Friends, family and classmates gather at Meacham Memorial Park on Sunday evening, Nov. 26, to take part in a vigil in remembrance of Shelbyon Polk. The 19-year-old was shot and killed in St. Louis. His body was found on Thanksgiving Day morning. photo by Diana Linsley.

December 01, 2017
A Kirkwood family's Thanksgiving morning slammed into tragedy rather than a day immersed in blissful gratitude. Consequently, their holiday weekend concluded with a Sunday candlelight vigil memorializing a loved one's life ended way too young by a gun.

After 19-year-old Kirkwood resident Shelbyon Polk went missing during the evening of Nov. 22, police reported at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving day that his body had been found in the 2600 block of Burd Street in St. Louis. He had been shot to death.

Ruled a homicide, the detectives' open investigation about Polk was still underway at press time.

A St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department report indicated officers responded to a call about an unresponsive male lying in the yard of a vacant residence. Polk was found with gunshot wounds to his torso, and pronounced deceased at the scene.

Polk was a 2017 Kirkwood High School graduate and former running back for the school's football team. He reportedly was last seen at the rally for the 116th annual Kirkwood vs. Webster Groves Turkey Day Game — no doubt an event he would've enjoyed, now as an enthusiastic fan.

He lived with his grandmother, Karen Polk, in Meacham Park, as well as with his mother, Sunni Joy, in Florissant. He had just celebrated his 19th birthday on Nov. 11.

Shocked friends and high school alumni, many of whom learned the news of Polk's death at the Turkey Day Game, said he had a quick smile and would be remembered for his kindness.

Polk's family faced similar tragedy when his father was murdered outside of Cuz's Bar and Grill in Soulard on July 19, 2015. Police stated there had been an altercation between two men inside the establishment at approximately 2:45 a.m. A male suspect, according to a police report, exited the bar and waited for 35-year-old Shelby Polk to leave. Two police officers reportedly saw the suspect firing into Polk's car, then escaping in a gray Chevy Trailblazer.

Shelby, called "Chubb" by friends, left behind his wife and five children, one of which was Shelbyon.

A photograph of Shelbyon Polk, one of several displayed at a Nov. 26 vigil held at Meacham Memorial Park. photo by Diana Linsley.

With both killings unsolved, anyone with information about what happened to either of the Polk men are urged to call CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS.

A Well-Attended Vigil

Action Christian Center South Pastor Ike Motley spoke about the popular Shelbyon Polk at the vigil held in Meacham Park on Nov. 26.

"Shelbyon had a wonderful personality and a gentle way about him. He's the type of person you'd never believe this could've happened to," reflected Motley.

The pastor said Polk joined his church a year ago, in an attempt to "try to turn his life around.

"Shelbyon was genuinely trying to take his life in a new direction. He and some other young men, who were his friends, got saved a year ago and began their journey as Christians. I really thought Shelbyon was going to go far. I knew he was going to succeed," said Motley.

Motley said every time he saw Polk, the teen was respectful. He added that Polk's peers spoke well of him at the vigil.

"We're all just befuddled by the whole thing," said Motley.

Kirkwood High School Assistant Principal Romona Miller also attended Polk's vigil, which she said was a gathering that students and parents organized. Polk's mother, grandmother, aunts and cousins also attended.

"The vigil was uplifting, with many positive stories about Shelbyon. He was a very pleasant young man. His friends wanted to come together and celebrate his life with his family. I think everyone reminiscing and supporting each other is necessary to move forward," said Miller.

Action Christian Center South Pastor Ike Motley speaks about Shelbyon Polk at the vigil held in Meacham Park on Nov. 26. photo by Diana Linsley.

In high school, she said Polk was a student who lit up the whole classroom when he walked in.

Miller said that losing back-to-back athletes like Polk and former Kirkwood High School football standout Jaz Granderson in October prompted more conversations among teachers and school administrators about how to better support students with positive ideas about staying safe in cycles of violence. Granderson, 27, died from a gunshot wound, and was one of two people killed during a violent fall weekend filled with more than a dozen shootings in St. Louis.

"We're considering planning a student-led rally in downtown Kirkwood, to start conversations about the senseless killings that are taking our young people at an incredible rate," said the principal.

"Our students may have a false sense of security, and think this can't happen to them. But it is happening to people who've been a close part of us in Kirkwood," Miller said.

Polk Family Hopes Details Are Revealed

Polk's uncle, Umar Ivan Lee, shared the following family statement:

"Our family is mourning the loss of our beloved Shelbyon Polk (better known as Lil' Chubb). He was the light unto all of our lives, well-loved with a bright future ahead of him. Shelbyon was planning to enlist in the Army to serve this country. Sadly, his life was taken from him on Thanksgiving just over two years after his father was murdered in St. Louis. The family is asking anyone with knowledge or information regarding the murder to please come forward immediately. Stop the violence."

Lee said Polk was a smart young man with a curious mind about various elements of the entire world.

"He loved learning, constantly asking me for educational video recommendations on YouTube," said the uncle. "He struggled with depression and periods of erratic behavior, but he was not a bad kid. He just didn't always have a lot of direction."

Lee said the family believes Polk was picked up by a vehicle driver in Kirkwood, but beyond that, they currently don't know of any witnesses.

"It's an uphill battle, but we hope to provide a financial incentive and tip the balance to get it solved," said Lee, who vowed to make fliers and is seeking volunteers to walk door-to-door with him in the area that Polk's body was found.

Lee said he is concerned about how the lives of Polk's four younger siblings have been permanently altered.

Polk's grandmother, Karen Polk, said her grandson had no relatives or people he knew in the neighborhood of his death, an area often called "The West Side."

"We have to step up as a community, and come forward with information," she said.

The number of homicides in St. Louis for 2017 has surpassed the number recorded during both 2015 and 2016. Polk was one of three reported homicides in St. Louis on Thanksgiving alone.

Funeral arrangements for Shelbyon Polk are scheduled for Dec. 2, starting with visitation at 9 a.m. at Wade Twin Chapel, 4800 Natural Bridge Ave.

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