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Suicidal gunman dies in officer-involved shooting

Key police transmissions (edited)

 

A brief but tense standoff with an intoxicated and suicidal gunman who fled into a shed in Lehigh ended in a fatal shooting Tuesday evening.

Although law enforcement officers would not immediately identify the victim or confirm that he had died, radio transmissions indicated that Robb Stewart, 408 E. Maria St., was shot and killed at 6:46 p.m., just 33 minutes after police and sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to his house.

At 6:33 p.m., one of the first officers on the scene radioed: “Get some more units up here. I think we’ve got him in the garage right now, but there’s no good way to get at it from where we’re at.”

At 6:44 p.m., an officer radioed: “Just be advised he has a firearm in his left hand, pointed directly toward me.”

A minute later, a breathless officer shouted into his radio: “Shots fired! Shots fired! Get the ambulance!”

Five minutes after that, EMTs from Hillsboro ambulance, which had staged nearby, radioed that the shooting had been fatal.

Officers immediately asked that supervisors and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation be notified and that dispatchers save a recording of all transmissions. All are standard in cases of officer-involved shootings.

At press time, KBI agents, Sheriff Robb Craft, and Hillsboro chief Dan Kinning, whose officers had been among the first on the scene, remained at the house, where a large group of TV reporters also had gathered.

Marion chief Tyler Mermis, assistant chiefs from Hillsboro and Marion, and the undersheriff also were there during the evening.

Multiple officers from Hillsboro, Marion, Peabody, and the sheriff’s department responded after family members apparently reported that Stewart was intoxicated, suicidal, and armed.

The family members who notified authorities apparently had fled the house before police and deputies arrived and provided officers with the number of a cell phone Stewart was thought to be carrying.

It was not immediately known whether officers attempted to communicate with him by phone.

They apparently had cornered him in what alternately was described as a garage or shed behind the house, and spotted him several times through windows.

Whether Stewart or officers fired first, and whether Stewart or an officer fired the fatal round, were unclear, as was exactly which officers were involved.

Shortly before midnight, Craft confirmed that the case was an officer-involved shooting, involved a fatality, that no officer had been injured and that the case had been turned over to the KBI.

Updates after print deadline

Twelve hours after our deadline, when print editions containing the report above hit the street, Craft released a statement identifying the gunman as we had and listing his age as 50.

In Craft's statement, he said that before negotiations could begin, Stewart attempted to exit the outbuilding, and officers instructed him to put his handgun down.

"When he pointed the handgun toward one of the officers, that officer fired at Mr. Stewart," Craft's statement said, adding that the still-unidentified officer was placed on administrative leave.

In the audio recording accompanying this report, a gap of at least 50 seconds, in which other conversations were edited out, occurred inbetween the initial report that Stewart was pointing a gun at an officer and the report of shots being fired. Here is the unedited recording of transmissions monitored at the newspaper office:

Unedited police transmissions

 

There was no indication that Stewart fired the gun he was holding.

Forty-five minutes after Craft's statement was faxed to media, KBI issued an email news release, adding that although no officers were injured, an unidentified officer was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Recorded conversations indicate this might have been a Marion officer, as other officers asked whether a particular Marion officer needed attention before the ambulance left to answer another call. A Marion officer also is thought to be the officer who fired the fatal shots.

On Thursday, county attorney Courtney Boehm said she expected to get a KBI report in six to eight weeks.

KBI will await full autopsy results, including blood tests, before completing its investigation.

Boehm said she would thoroughly review the report before deciding whether any charges should be filed. The officer involved in the shooting will presumably remain on paid administrative leave until then.

Last modified June 23, 2017

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