Robbery suspect kills himself at school parking lot in Oakville

Classes canceled today at Blades Elementary School

By Gloria Lloyd

School is canceled at Blades Elementary School today, after a robbery suspect fleeing from police committed suicide in the Oakville school’s parking lot.

Around 4:45 a.m., officers from the St. Louis County Police Department’s South County Precinct chased the man, suspected of two robberies, through residential streets in Oakville until he pulled into the parking lot at Blades, 5140 Patterson Road.

Nickolas T. Gralike, 24, of the 700 block of Hill Slope in Jefferson County, shot himself and died in his pickup truck at the scene, according to the police account of the shooting. A police officer believed the man was shooting at him and returned fire, but none of those shots hit Gralike, said police spokesman Officer Shawn McGuire.

The South County Precinct received calls from two victims robbed at gunpoint overnight Friday at the Bank of America ATM, 4495 Lemay Ferry Road. Around midnight, the first robbery victim told police a man with a “long gun” had stolen his cash and cell phone and then fled on foot.

Around 4:30 a.m., a second victim called police to tell them that a man in a dark blue pickup truck had robbed him at the Bank of America ATM with a shotgun, stealing his driver’s license, cash and credit cards.

Officers responding to the second robbery spotted a truck matching that description at the intersection of Lemay Ferry Road and Mehl Avenue, but the truck took off through Oakville when officers tried to pull over the driver.

Gralike chose Blades randomly, since it was the only area in the residential neighborhood to pull off the road as police were chasing him, McGuire noted.

“It was a complete coincidence that it was a school,” he told the Call. “There’s really nowhere to pull off into, since it’s all just subdivision streets. He passed all of those, and I think that the grade school was one of the only openings.”

Once Gralike pulled into the Blades parking lot, officers approached his truck to arrest him. At the time McGuire spoke to the Call, he did not know how many officers were involved in the chase or on the scene at Blades.

“At that point, they heard the driver yell something out the window, but then all of a sudden a shot went off and the back window of the truck broke out,” McGuire said.

Since the officer attempting to make the arrest believed the robbery suspect was shooting at him, “he returned fire at the truck, but then as time kind of lapsed and there was no movement within the truck, they went up to the car, and he had taken his own life with his shotgun,” McGuire said. “It looked like a self-inflicted gunshot wound which then blew out the truck window.”

An autopsy conducted by the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s office showed that no rounds shot by the officer hit Gralike. Further investigation by the detectives revealed several stolen items located in the suspect’s vehicle.

County detectives immediately notified Blades Elementary Principal Jeremy Booker and Mehlville School District Superintendent Norm Ridder about the shooting at the school. At first, Blades and Mehlville officials considered delaying classes at Blades, before making the decision to cancel school altogether.

Blades students will get a four-day weekend, since they already have Monday off due to a professional-development day for teachers.