A traffic stop turned into a chase, which turned deadly — first for a Kentucky state trooper, then for the eastern Missouri man who authorities believe shot him.
The episode began around 10:20 p.m. (11:20 p.m. ET) Sunday when Trooper Cameron Ponder pulled over a car driven by Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks, who is from Florissant, Missouri, along Interstate 24 in Trigg County. Two women and two small children were in vehicle with Johnson-Shanks, according to Kentucky State Police spokesman Jay Thomas.
Ponder didn’t tell dispatchers the reason for the traffic stop. But when he learned that the 25-year-old Johnson-Shanks’ license had been suspended, he contacted a local deputy to arrange for a hotel room so he didn’t have to take the driver back to jail, Thomas said.
As he did, Johnson-Shanks took off.
According to the State Police spokesman, Ponder followed until the vehicle he was chasing abruptly pulled over about 10 miles away in Lyon County just before 11 p.m.
Ponder pulled his patrol car up against the other vehicle. Then, Thomas alleged, Johnson-Shanks leaned out his window and fired — striking the hood of Ponder’s car, his windshield and the trooper himself.
Another deputy arrived on the scene shortly thereafter and called for an ambulance for Ponder. The U.S. Navy veteran later died at a hospital in Princeton, a community about 50 miles east of Paducah.
Meanwhile, the hunt began for the man responsible.
It ended shortly before 7 a.m. Monday, when members of a Kentucky State Police team spotted Johnson-Shanks and confronted him, Thomas said.
Those officers demanded he drop his weapon. Instead, according to Thomas, Johnson-Shanks aimed at police and was shot.
He later died at a nearby hospital, and his body is scheduled to undergo an autopsy Tuesday in Madisonville, Kentucky, the police spokesman said.
One of the two women who had been in Johnson-Shanks’ vehicle, his 18-year-old niece, has been arrested and accused of hindering the apprehension of someone wanted by authorities. The other woman, age 22, was not taken into custody.