Suspect Caught in Shooting: Ind. Trooper Killed in Stop to Help Driver
Officer Down: Scott Patrick - [Wheatfield, Indiana]
|GARY,INDIANA -- Prosecutors said they likely will seek the death penalty against a convicted drug dealer and auto thief suspected of having shot and killed an Indiana State Police trooper early Monday morning.|
Trooper Scott A. Patrick, 27, was shot and killed by a single gunshot wound to the neck, which severed a major artery, Lake County Coroner David Pastrick said. He was wounded about 4:37 a.m. and died in surgery at The Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary at 5:09 a.m.
Patrick, whose wife is eight weeks pregnant with their first child, lived in Wheatfield, as do his parents. He had been on the department three years.
The man police named as the shooter, Darryl J. Jeter, 19, of 11925 S. Prairie Ave., Chicago, was shot several times by Trooper Jeff Gruber, 24, a two-year veteran who responded to Patrick's call for backup.
Patrick was responding to a call of a stalled vehicle in the eastbound lanes of the Borman Expressway just west of the Grant Street exit. He found the white Chevrolet Caprice abandoned, but saw a man walking up the exit ramp and drove up to him to see if he had been driving the car.
The car, which has been impounded as evidence, was reported stolen in Chicago on Dec. 16, said Lt. Larry Keiser, district commander of the State Police post at Lowell. Sgt. Ann Wojas said Patrick did not know the car was stolen as he approached Jeter.
According to Keiser, as Patrick approached Jeter, Jeter pulled a gun and opened fire on the trooper, striking him in the neck above his bulletproof vest, then ran. Patrick was able to get off at least one shot, but Keiser said it is unknown yet if he hit Jeter.
Gruber arrived suspecting trouble.
"He had apparently had radio contact (with Patrick) and had sensed some stress in his voice when he said he needed assistance," Keiser said.
A truck driver who had witnessed the shooting stopped and told Gruber, who was by then on the scene, that the suspect had fled and was hiding behind the double set of tires of another flatbed semi parked alongside the road. Jeter ran from his hiding place, Keiser said, and jumped into the truck, which the witness had left running.
"He tried to put the vehicle into gear and as Trooper Gruber approached, he made gestures Trooper Gruber believed were threatening," Keiser said, and Gruber shot Jeter multiple times, blowing out the passenger side window of the truck.
Small, tented yellow plastic markers showed the location of more than a dozen shells from the exchange of fire on the southbound exit ramp, where Patrick's and Gruber's squad cars were parked in front of the semis.
Jeter also was taken to Methodist Hospital Northlake, but Keiser said his injuries were not life threatening.
Lake County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara McConnell, who met Monday with State Police, said her office likely will file charges against Jeter today and that the death penalty probably will be sought.
"It's just so sad," she said. "Not only was it three days before Christmas, but his wife is pregnant."
Wojas, who conducted a press briefing following the shooting, was fighting back tears. Keiser, who answered reporters' questions, was likewise visibly shaken.
"Trooper Scott Patrick was a professional. His appearance was always outstanding, and we never received any complaints about him," he said. "He was kind of quiet, a nice young man.
"We are going through shock, disbelief, any of the stages anyone would go through on the loss of someone you love," Keiser said. He said the driver who witnessed the shootings of Patrick and Jeter is "in a sort of shock and disbelief," but was able to give a comprehensive statement as to what happened.
"We believe we have a pretty good idea of what happened out there," Keiser said. "But we don't know why."
"I'd have expected this more out of some guy in his 40s who had been in prison and wasn't going to go back," said Deputy Prosecutor Peter Villareal. "This guy is only 19."
But a check of criminal records with the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County showed that even though only an adult for a year, Jeter already has piled up an impressive criminal record.
On May 13, 2002, he was arrested for stealing a car. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, which was terminated unsatisfactorily after he was arrested on Oct. 30, 2002, and charged with two counts manufacture, sale and possession of cocaine.
Chicago police reports show Jeter, also known as "Nelly" and Darryl Johnson, was arrested in Oct. 3, 2002, for peddling crack cocaine outside John Foster Dulles Elementary School, 6311 S. Calumet Ave., while he was living at 6001 S. Vernon, a few blocks away.
He allegedly told police at that time that he "only sold drugs to support his children."
He pleaded guilty Feb. 3, 2003, to a single count and was sentenced to two years in prison, but he was released after 90 days because of credit time he served in Cook County Jail while awaiting trial.
Court records also show Jeter has a pending case for allegedly breaking into a Pontiac Grand Prix in the 2300 block of East 69th Street in Chicago on July 2, 2003. His next scheduled court date on that charge is Jan. 2.
He also has a record for causing an accident by failure to yield on May 18, 2001. He was living at 4947 S. Federal St., Chicago, at the time. He was convicted of all five infractions connected with the wreck, including failure to have a drivers license, when he failed to show for his court date.
The shooting comes nine days after two police officers were gunned down in Mishawaka while trying to arrest an armed robbery suspect. Officer Bryan Verkler and Cpl. Thomas Roberts died while trying to arrest Raymond Gilkerson, 30, who was shot several times by police before shooting himself in the head.
On Dec. 4, the New Richmond town marshal died of heart problems after a struggle with a 17-year-old he was trying to arrest.
The last state trooper to die in the line of duty was Jason Beal, 24, who was struck and killed while assisting a motorist in Kosciusko County on Jan. 15, 2000. The last trooper to die by gunfire was Cory R. Elson, 26, who was cut down by automatic weapons fire when he stopped a pickup truck in Adams County on April 3, 1999.
In Lake County, the last officer to die in the line of duty was Cpl. Louis Donald, of the Gary Police Department, who lost control of his squad car and hit a utility pole while chasing a car theft suspect Aug. 27, 2001.
The last Lake County officer to die by gunfire was Gary Detective Dorian Rorex, 27, who was killed Jan. 15, 1998, while attempting to stop a drug dealing suspect in the 2500 block of Tyler Street. His assailant, Larry Dixon, was shot and paralyzed by police gunfire and was given a 40-year prison term after pleading guilty to murder.