Prosecutors: Trooper acted lawfully in fatal traffic stop
Feb 26, 2013 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A trooper who fatally shot a motorist in late January in Holt County, Mo. acted lawfully and will not face formal prosecution, according to prosecutors.
Holt County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Shepherd reviewed the Missouri State Highway Patrol report about the Jan. 28 fatal traffic stop that killed Thomas E. Schroeder, 50, of Omaha, Neb. Mr. Schroeder was pulled over by trooper Christopher Sullivan, identified by court documents. Based on information presented, the trooper was justified in using fatal force.
"I reviewed and returned the report to the Highway Patrol on Feb. 11," Mr. Shepherd said. "The trooper acted lawfully and the shooting was justified, but the death is still unfortunate."
Mr. Schroeder was traveling south in a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe on Interstate 29 near Craig, Mo., shortly after 8:15 p.m. He was stopped for speeding by Mr. Sullivan, according to a copy of the vehicle search warrant. Mr. Sullivan became suspicious that the man was intoxicated and a struggle ensued that resulted in Mr. Sullivan shooting Mr. Schroeder to death.
Mr. Schoeder is described as standing 6-foot-6 and weighing 260 pounds. He struck the trooper multiple times in the head before the trooper shot at him. Sgt. Sheldon Lyon with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said an initial review determined the trooper acted within standard protocol and in self-defense.
"This guy (trooper) is a young guy and has been through a very scary situation and he will have to relive that experience for the rest of his life," said Sgt. Sheldon Lyon with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, who declined to confirm the trooper's name. "When people think of police, they think of a more robotic, mechanical personality, but we are just like everybody else.
"We go to a job that is very dangerous and while this does not happen every day, we put our lives on the line to protect the public and this trooper reacted exactly how he was trained."
Mr. Lyon confirmed that the trooper was on active duty after the formal review was completed. Although the incident report has been finalized, a request for the formal report was not available or returned Tuesday.
Shortly after the shooting, investigators were granted a search warrant for Mr. Schroeder's vehicle and discovered several drivers' licenses and other forms of identification in his possession. Also detailed in the search warrant, Mr. Schroeder possessed clothing, bottles of liquor partially consumed, more than $3,800, a large black duffel bag, and various other items.
Prior to the fatal traffic stop, Mr. Schroder had an extensive criminal history in Nebraska and California, according to court and traffic records. Douglas County, Neb., Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Marty Bilek said Mr. Schroeder's criminal history included arrests for use of a weapon to commit a robbery or burglary, trespassing, assault and battery, gambling, DWI (twice), and two resisting arrest charges.
In September 2012, Mr. Schroeder was involved in a hit and run in San Joaquin County, Calif., before he was arrested for a DUI and fleeing law enforcement in Alameda County, Calif. The driver who was struck, Chris Miller, filed a personal injury claim that has yet to be settled.
"The hit sent me off the freeway at 65 miles-per-hour, down a 50-foot embankment and rolled the car," Mr. Miller said.
According to Alameda County, he did not appear for two court hearings for the DUI arrest and defaulted on his bail. Additional detailed reports were not immediately available.
Kristin Hoppa can be reached
at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPHoppa.
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