Tag Archives: gunfight

AirBnB

13 Aug

After the gunfight under our windows I wondered if someone might have an errant AirBnB renter that had a party that went south. It had never occurred to me before to even think residential apartments might offer up short-term rentals. Because we’re renters. No lease I’ve ever signed allows subletting, which is what short-term rentals technically would be. But the news talked about over 100 shots fired down the street from here, and said the culprits were 2 warring AirBnB parties. Like, parties as in groups of people having fun, not parties in the court of law sense. So I looked on the website, and boy did I find out our lofts have an AirBnB situation! I could tell each listing that was definitely from our loft building because we have distinct orange-colored kitchen cabinets.

At first I thought the landlord must not know about these residents gone rouge. OUR lease is very specific that we are the only 2 allowed to live in our apartment. It limits guests to family and limits the amount of time they can stay here. There is no subleasing permitted on the lease we signed. And I just assumed it was like that for everyone in the lofts… Because what a liability! If something happened, the landlord could ultimately be responsible since he owns the building. It would cause a legal entanglement to evict a resident for something their AirBnB subtenant did.

After the gunfight I emailed and texted the landlord asking if any of the participants lived in our lofts or rented one of the many Airbnbs listed.

positions of me (circle) and people with modified weapons

He ghosted me.

July 31st I counted 10 listings that showed the building’s distinct orange kitchens (note how many guests each ad has listed for one loft):

In regards to the number of guests allowed for each individual loft, you can see that parties are actively encouraged by the hosts. This is not exclusively a high end vacationer thing-though at these price-points, it’s that too. These hosts have 6 guests listed frequently, which is NOT the size of any loft in this building. They are trying to solicit partiers to split the high cost, knowing damn well the nuisance and risk parties will introduce to the building.

As you can see, this is not a new thing. There were many “super-hosts” among those offering up units for short-term rental. And it wasn’t a seldom occurrence, as many of the hosts had 30-40-50 reviews from people who had already stayed in our building.

Annnd you can see in the above examples (not exhaustive) that there are actual businesses offering up our loft’s units on AirBnB. In my opinion, a lot of the hosts looked like they had their units professionally staged and the photos were magazine quality. If an individual did that, then I guess they are in the right business. But also, maybe this is big-business since travel companies were sometimes listed as host. How does that even occur? The landlord HAS to be in on it if businesses are using the building. He is absolutely taking extra deposits, or higher rental fees, or a direct cut of the AirBnB profits to allow that.

You can also see the money being made on these AirBnB stays. For the 10 listings of our address, the average per night stay cost $140! I couldn’t even believe it. So that’s precisely why we could afford to live in such a nice building: Crime + the real money is being made on all of the AirBnBs.

On Aug 9 there were 14 listings, including 4 new listings (one of the listings was for 2 different apt) from “J.C.”

And I noticed the pictures on these listings were the exact same pictures that were on apartments.com and renters.com etc, etc… Like the landlord was in on it.

And of course he would have to be, because we have gates and the doors and elevator requires a key fob to get in. How would all these AirBnB people be getting around the property if the landlord wasn’t assisting the host? Ooohhhh, all those things hanging on the gate are a means of entry! UPS and Amazon and other frequent people use them to come in without the key fob. So the literal 17 on outside gates are for the AirBnB people to get in also.

So if 15 units are posted on AirBnB for short-term rentals that means 23% of the units in our lofts are hosting AirBnb!

At first I was mad. Because that’s egregious. And it endangers all of us with actual leases since AirBnB does not do background checks. Also, it renders are gated property and key-fob entry useless. Random people are trapesing in and out of here every weekend. And one legitimate AirBnB can invite 60 friends into the building, and no one’s checking these people in any way. We need a door man checking badges and IDs and confiscating weapons and drugs! It’s really not safe for current leasors, and it’s very unethical to draw people here from outside the community who don’t know what they’re stepping into. These people are just on vacation, a lot of them, and some have kids and stuff. They’re just walking around unaware that a whole ass gunfight broke out. Right on the property. And last weekend. There really should be some kind of mandatory disclosures. Landlords should be required to inform tenants of the scope of AirBnBs allowed. The AirBnB landlords should be required to disclose safety concerns to potential short-term leasers.

Then, I thought about buying a building in a rough area of town. An area that is trying to revitalize, that has many empty warehouses, construction, drag racing, people gathering, and random gunfights. The locals probably know to stay away, so it must be difficult to fill all of the units in the building. And what a waste to have a quarter of the building sit empty! So I can understand trying to recoup some money and get people into those units.

Saint Louis isn’t really doing anything to crack down on AirBnBs, and the property owner is obviously making money from it, so I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon. I didn’t realize that’s yet another thing I need to research when looking for housing–are AirBnBs listed for that property??!

Literal Gun Fight at our Loft

31 Jul

Went to bed early to fully enjoy the weekend. It seems like we’re always tired and fatigued so we don’t do much. But…

Awoke to a bang. Goose is 16 years old and doesn’t see well anymore, especially in the dark so I thought he stumbled on his rubbermaid ladder getting on the bed, as he sometimes does. Heard another crash and glass. I thought- Goddammit what did the cats knock over?! thinking the commotion was inside the loft. Then there was loud persistent bangs (bang bang bang bang bang bang bang, I think 7 initially?) and my first thought was, what the fuck?! Someone is banging on our window. Again?!

This had happened to us in Utah. Someone repeatedly came to the space behind our apartment and banged on our bedroom window with their fist, scaring the wits out of us. Was it a meth-head, just a passerby? But it wasn’t a one-time thing either. The person came back and knocked on the back window a second time. Did they plan to rob us? To rape us? Kill? We didn’t know, but it felt targeted because none of the other neighbors had the problem. When the person returned, we thought that was really unhinged and I was too terrified to open the curtains and look who it was. So I knocked back from the inside, thinking it might be a cat or something, or if the person knew we were home it would scare them away. This brazen person knocked right back with more force, so we knew they had no fear or qualms that we were inside. Anyway, that was a big part of the reason we didn’t renew that lease even though the location was really ideal.

Back to yesterday. So I thought some mofo had gotten some implement and was striking our window. We’re on the 2nd floor, with only storage units beneath us, so the sidewalk between the parking lot and our unit isn’t all that far above (it might as will be 1st floor on the North side). I thought they were using a broom or rake or something. The B in the pic is where our bed is and the line is where the loud noise was coming from-probably 3-5 feet under our window is the front sidewalk.

Cool was up first and peeking out the blinds. She said, “Hit the deck!” Which seems like a funny thing to say now. But I was disoriented and wanted to get my bearings, so I peeked out the blinds too. What I saw was two approximately 20 year old black men shooting back and fourth across the parking lot with automatic guns. There have been all kinds of car break-ins, stolen catalytic converters, and an armed gang of teens stealing Kias in Saint Louis, and I think across the country. So I thought- Oh great they got into the security gate and are going to break-in, and possibly steal our cars. What a headache!

The circle is our North window, and the 2 Xs are where the shooters in the parking lot were:

But they seemed to have no interest in the cars, only shooting each other. So I knew it wasn’t the car thieves after all.

I got on the floor and called 911. It was the first time I had ever called.

Because in 2005, when our crazy landlord literally broke the front door down to show the house to potential renters, it was my roommate at the time, Eileen, who called. I just hid in the closet and cried with her (I was 22 and terrified).

Back to Saturday: And I was on hold. I would have been surprised and appalled, but I had seen true crime where 911 had put them on hold for like 20 min in some short-staffed, high crime area. And at that time I didn’t even know that was a thing! I thought the whole point of 911 was immediacy for emergencies. But I worked though my shock and disgust when I watched whatever show, so when it happened to me I thought- That checks out. While I was on hold the recording kept loudly saying wait on the line or something like that every few seconds. Heaven help you if you’re trying to quietly hide from an attacker or something.

While I was waiting, the shooting outside had been continuing the entire time, but now I also heard commotion in our 2nd floor hallway. I think I heard exclusively female voices (I can’t be sure there were no men, but I don’t remember any) all loudly and excitedly chattering. I didn’t know if neighbors woke up or if people had run inside to hide, or if the shooters had gained entry. I was afraid to get close to the hallway door because my 911 message was loud, and also I didn’t know if any of the gunmen were inside the building. I half expected banging or shooting at our apartment door at any moment and didn’t know what I would do in that scenario.

I was still holding for 911 and went more to the interior of the loft, but Cool was still in the studio area and had called 911 (after me) and was already talking to someone. I didn’t want my loud recorded message to make her call unclear. She was describing the scene to 911 and saying there were many people outside in masks and head-coverings, all with automatic guns with silencers and some long extended attachment. I hadn’t realized there were many people out there.

After what felt like 10 min, I walked to the living area and someone answered my call saying it was 911 this is (something that started with a C, I don’t remember now). I thought it was weird they didn’t ask for my address like they always do on television shows, but proactively provided it first thing. I was also surprised that I remembered the address correctly and without thinking while under stress, bc we move so much. We have only lived in Saint Louis for 4 months.

I said there was shooting and the operator wanted to know how many shots had been fired. I hadn’t been counting but it would be like 7 rapid-fire shots at a time, then like 2 one-offs, but continuously since we woke up, so I really didn’t know. I said, probably 80, I’ve been on hold and they’ve been shooting this whole time. He must have asked how many shots 3 times! While he was on speaker phone, another burst of shots rang out right next to the wall where I was standing (pic below: the star is 7-12 shots and the K is where I was. The C is where Cool was) and he said- We’ll send someone right over. Before he hung up on me I said, Please hurry, our apartments are completely lined with windows!

It felt like a lot of waiting on hold for 911, but I guess time was weird because of the stress of continuous shooting and the fear.

Right after the call to 911, I texted the landlord saying there were 7(?) shooters with automatic guns who had been shooting for the last 20 minutes, and informed him 911 had been called. No response.

We keep the blinds in the living room partially open all the time. Because the cats want to look out the windows even when we’re sleeping and they’ll ruin the rental blinds if they’re not raised taller than a cat. As such, I had a clear view of the area in front of the loft’s main entrance, and could see a portion of the stairway.

The marks are where I was looking out and where the people were kinda standing and planning their next move. The X closest to the door was a masked boy, probably 16, carrying a long, automatic gun. The next X was a maybe 20-22 year old girl, no mask, no gun, just standing as if no shooting was occuring. The the biggest X was a husky guy in a mask also carrying a big automatic gun that I estimated to be no more than 23 years old.

They all looked relaxed, and non-chalant. None had angry expressions. They didn’t look like hardened professionals, or gang members. They were sort of standing around. I considered taking a picture or video since I had such a clear view and it was dark in my loft so I don’t think they were really looking up at me. My camera takes shitty pictures in low light if the case is on my phone, so I didn’t want to stand there removing my phone case, and knew the quality would be bad if I didn’t. My impression was that these were dumb kids who didn’t understand the consequences of their actions. Nobody looked like they were out to be a murderer. Nobody looked scared in the least bit. I didn’t think they looked like hardened criminals, just 16-23 year olds without developed brains, but with automatic weapons.

As the shooting continued, and we waited for the police to show up, I looked out the North window, sat on the treadmill, looked out the West window, back to the North window… I finally saw two police SUVs on the street outside the property. But they left. I was afraid because it went quiet that the police would say it was over and just leave without intervening. I went back to the West windows and when I did I counted (in case I needed to be a witness) 7 people go from the entrance, up the stairs. I quickly went to the North side windows to get a look at the group.

At the North side an unmarked truck pulled up and parked in the middle of the aisle. A regular, ununiformed guy got out and I didn’t know who it was, but they didn’t seem like police. He was heading toward the stairs to the loft entrance. Right toward the big group that had been shooting for the last 15-20 minutes. I was concerned that he was alone, and expected some sort of altercation.

There was no fuss. I don’t know who he was or if he engaged with the group. They just continued on their way. I was struck how casually they were all walking. Just slow, regular pace, in a group. I thought they must be trying to play it off like they were just innocent passersby. But at least 2 of the guys still had masks and face-coverings on. All 5 gals looked to be in club attire. No masks, booty shorts, mini skirts, heels, and flip flops. Cool said one of the gals was carrying a to-go box from a restaurant. They gals had been outside most of the time of the shooting looking just casual, as if a gunfight wasn’t happening. Anyway, at no time did any of the shooters or gals looked stressed, angry, perturbed. It was creepy how calm and casual everyone was.

I noticed two sets of police lights, but they were pretty far from the action. In the pic: The X on that corner of the intersection, but further North, halfway up the next block. Later, I saw a car driving along the street behind our parking lot, and they had to change lanes. So I knew there must be a police car right at my X with its lights off. The group of gunmen were at my circle in the pic, heading toward the carrot demarking the pedestrian gate. A few minutes later a police car sped down the street with another following soon after (the small Xs).

But because of the landscaping (it’s much more established and thicker than in this pic) I couldn’t see what happened. I didn’t know if the shooters casually walked away or if they were arrested. There was no altercation inside the gates.

Police strolled slowly and pretty calmly on foot, and sort of stood in front of the building. Soon a group of police were walking through the parking lot, standing, people were going outside, there were gals in skirts standing around, 2 random people left on the sidewalk as if a half hour gun battle had not just taken place. I saw 2 puppies off leash! Everyone kinda standing around chatting like this just happens every day, yawn. It was fucking bizarre.

Everything sort of settled down and we went back to bed. Sleeping nervously with much paranoia. Would they come back? Later in the morning I looked everywhere I could think online to find out what happened. No news story. No neighbors talking about it on the Nextdoor app. I looked up our complex name on there. And 47 weeks ago someone said they lived here and it was terrible, especially at the pool, because there were a whole bunch of units being used for AirBnB.

I looked up our address, and sure enough there were literally 10 listings for units within our building, 3 of them superhosts with 47-ish reviews each. So it’s a major thing. And I don’t know if people are breaking our lease, which does not allow subletting, or if they’re paying the landlord extra or something for the privilege. I can’t imaging a building owner would want to take on the liability, or mess with that potential legal entanglement–but some people only care about money.

No word on Twitter or Reddit either. I couldn’t find anything on the police blotter. It’s as if a half hour shoot out with automatic guns and at least 12 people weren’t armed and around our loft! One stray bullet could have easily broken our windows and killed us. Even sleeping in bed we are right next to the window and could have been shot. Nobody cared? It was the biggest, most dangerous thing we ever lived through in any place we ever lived, and it was just quiet and over.

I strained to overhear conversations of the other residents as they entered the complex (remember our windows right by the door). Some lady said she called 911 because she has a 6 month old, and was irate about being on hold. She said there were people driving and randomly shooting. Which I knew firsthand was false, because I had front row view to the entire thing. It was planned because they were wearing masks and head coverings. They weren’t random because they were contemplating how to get in the key-fobbed entrance of the building. So I don’t know if she jumped to conclusions or heard some mom-story that minimized their culpability. But I knew that was not what happened. I also didn’t know if the shooters lived here, if someone was followed home from the club and victimized, or if it was a crazy AirBnB altercation. Another lady walking by mentioned she was a nurse (phew, file that away for the future–reassuring) and said this place is ghetto now and hadn’t been last year.

The landlord who will text us about towing aberrant cars at the drop of a hat, and who griped at everyone via text about chicken fingers in the pool–didn’t say shit! Can you believe the landlord did not reprimand or reassure, or inform us what happened? He didn’t give a fuck. It was fucking weird and delinquent.

I thought there was a small chance the police had asked the owner not to say anything because of an investigation or something. So I emailed him a description of what happened in case legal action is necessary so there’s a record. I wanted to know if anyone was arrested, if the cameras were checked, and if we needed to make statements as probably the best witnesses to the whole scene. I also wanted to know if this was an AirBnB situation, and if he was in on it or clueless. Mostly, I just wanted to hear from the dude. In part, I said:

We couldn’t see if any arrests were made for the 7-12 people involved. As such, we don’t know if there will be a continuing problem. Did the cameras show if the gunfight was someone who lives here or one of the many units listed on Airbnb for this complex? We don’t know how afraid to be.  Can you tell me what safety & prevention measures are being implemented?

Nothing. No response. A fucking shooting popped off and no word from the asshole. So we’re trying not to panic. It might be a one-time thing. But we’re also not locked on Saint Louis or Missouri. With the major flooding and major violence right on our doorstep in one week, it seems like a good time to open our minds at least to moving. Even though I still have major moving-PTSD and DO NOT WANT TO MOVE ALL OF OUR BELONGINGS ANY TIME SOON. Also, money. It’s expensive to move, and I don’t know where we can afford to go, or if it will be any better. So we’re on standby. How many traumas do we have to endure in 2022?!