Deputy, suspect dead in Ohio trailer park standoff
Sunday, January 2, 2011
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) — A sheriff’s deputy investigating a report of gunfire at a trailer park was shot dead Saturday, and the shooting suspect was killed after a gun battle with police, authorities said. A police officer was wounded.
Deputy Suzanne Hopper, who was married last year and had two children, was shot as she tried to photograph a footprint in the Enon Beach mobile-home park in western Ohio, Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly said.
“Our deputy never had the opportunity to return fire or take cover,” he said at a press conference.
Police officers were trying to talk to the shooting suspect when he fired on them from inside a trailer, and a German Township officer was wounded in a large exchange of gunfire, Kelly said. There were “many, many, many” shots fired by the suspect and eight officers, he said.
The wounded officer, Jeremy Blum, was hospitalized in fair condition, a hospital supervisor said.
Enon Beach resident Angelina Inman said she looked out of her trailer at the park, which sits near a highway, to see the deputy lying on the ground. She watched as another officer tried to reach her body.
“He was itching to get her,” Inman said. “He kept radioing in, can he please get her, and he was told no because it wasn’t secure. You could see that male sheriff crying — he wanted to get her, he wanted to get her bad.”
Sgt. Dustin White had accompanied Hopper to the trailer park, which is just southwest of Springfield and about 50 miles west of Columbus, and was interviewing a family whose trailer had been shot at when he heard Hopper scream, Kelly said.
“We believed we had an active shooter, which we did, and we wanted to get her some medical attention, but we didn’t want to get anyone else shot,” the sheriff said.
Kelly, who has been sheriff for 24 years, said he had hired Hopper in 1999 and had known her since the police academy.
“This,” he said, “is the worst day of my entire law enforcement career.”
Enon Beach acts as a seasonal campground with some summer-only residents and others who live there year-round. A portion of Interstate 70 was closed twice for a total of about an hour because the trailer park is so close to the roadway, Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Gary Lewis said.
A girl who lives in the trailer park said she knew the shooting suspect and he had a temper.
“He was a quiet person, but if you made him mad — he wasn’t very pleasant,” 15-year-old Chelsea Bagley said.
Her mother’s boyfriend, John Burkhardt, said he heard the shots fired in the neighborhood. Police then arrived, Burkhardt said, and for several minutes authorities asked the suspect over a loud speaker to come out and surrender.
“They give him 25 chances to walk out of there,” Burkhardt said. “They were begging him to come out, but he wouldn’t come out.”
Shortly after, Burkhardt said, authorities opened fire on the man’s trailer.
“All hell broke loose,” he said.
Police threw smoke grenades before storming the trailer and finding the suspect dead, Kelly said.
Authorities were still investigating Saturday night and weren’t ready to say whether police gunfire killed the suspect, whose identity wasn’t released, Kelly said. It’s possible the suspect, who had “a history” with the sheriff’s office, killed himself, he said.
Hopper, 40, was known for her dedication to the job and adherence to keeping herself safe, Kelly said. The 12-year veteran and former officer of the year was wearing a protective vest Saturday but it didn’t shield her from the gunfire that killed her, he said.
“If she would have known there was a suspect in that trailer she’d have never walked that way without additional units and without taking cover,” Kelly said.
Hopper once went six straight years without calling in sick and often put on charity events for the Special Olympics and other causes, Kelly said.
“Her personnel file is filled with accolades and commendations and always service before self,” he said.
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