St. Louis County man sentenced to 15 years in prison for dealing fentanyl, fatal shooting of teen

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U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp on Tuesday sentenced a man who was dealing fentanyl and fatally shot a 16-year-old with a fully automatic pistol in downtown St. Louis in 2022 to 15 years in prison. 

Judge Schelp also ordered John M. Whitney Jr., 22, of Bridgeton, to pay $8,341 for his victim’s funeral expenses. 

In March of 2022, Whitney was selling drugs outside a loft building on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. After entering the lobby and heading to the elevators, he used a Glock handgun equipped with an aftermarket “switch” to fatally shoot a 16-year-old. Whitney claimed he was acting in self-defense after the teen drew his weapon first, Whitney’s plea agreement says. Surveillance video shows Whitney and the teen simultaneously drawing firearms and Whitney opening fire with the Glock as the teen turned towards Whitney with his pistol raised. Whitney then exchanged fire with the teen’s associate before both fled the building.

The teen was socializing with others in the lobby. In a letter to Judge Schelp, the teen’s mother said it was his first time going out to have fun and that he was in the “wrong place at the wrong time.” “My heart is broken for the rest of my life,” she wrote.

Whitney continued selling drugs and possessing firearms after killing the victim.

In his plea agreement, he admitted selling fentanyl twice to someone working for the Drug Enforcement Administration. A court-approved search of his apartment on April 22, 2022, found a different Glock pistol with an aftermarket switch that converted it a fully automatic weapon, as well as three AR-15-style rifles, a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, raw fentanyl in a plastic bag and capsules containing fentanyl. 

“Guns and drugs are often coupled when we encounter drug distributors,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Colin Dickey, supervisor of DEA operations in Eastern Missouri. “These criminals are engaged in illegal activities and believe they must protect them through equally illegal means. It’s our job to show them how wrong they are, and take the dealers off the streets to prevent more harm.”

Whitney pleaded guilty in November to one count of possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Geoff Ogden is prosecuting the case.

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