Saturday, January 19, 2002

Suspect dead after shooting cop

Fleeing man made use of stolen cars

By Jim Hannah, Howard Wilkinson and Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ALEXANDRIA, Ky. — Stephen Ellison, a Campbell County police sergeant whose firefighter brother was killed on duty last March, was saved from serious injury or death Friday by his bulletproof vest.

        His shooting came near the end of a six-hour episode that included a robbery, shots fired and a chase involving stolen vehicles. It began near Lexington and ended in Northern Kentucky with the officer wounded and the suspect dead.

        “My first thought was, "Oh, my God. Not again,'” said the officer's mother, Donna Ellison of Melbourne, Ky., who was at work Friday afternoon when her husband called to say their son had been shot.

        She went to University Hospital, and “the first thing he said to me was, "I'm OK. I'm sorry.' He was apologizing to me, because he knows what we all went through” when his brother, Miami Township firefighter Bill Ellison, died fighting a house fire. The mother of four said her two sons “chose to do a job where they put their lives on the line every day. I know that Billy was watching over Steve today.”

        Sgt. Ellison, 34, suffered only minor wounds, although he was shot in the chest with a shotgun. He suffered abrasions on his chest and graze wounds to his head and upper leg. He was released from University Hospital Friday night.

[photo] Police investigate the site where a suspected bank robber shot and killed himself after wounding an Alexandria police officer.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
        The suspect, who had not been identified as of Friday night, allegedly held up a bank in Paris, Ky., then fled north, shooting at pursuing officers and stealing at least four vehicles along the way, an FBI official said. No other officers were injured.

        Sgt. Ellison spotted the man driving a stolen pickup truck at about 3:30 p.m. on U.S. 27 near Moreland Drive. He pulled the vehicle over, but the driver came out with a shotgun and fired, striking Sgt. Ellison in the chest.

        Sgt. Ellison fired back but apparently missed.

        “There's not much doubt ... his vest saved him,” said Campbell County Police Lt. Col. Keith Hill.

        FBI spokesman David Beyer said the violent spree started when the suspect entered the Kentucky Bank on South Main Street in Paris and robbed it at 9:45 a.m. Friday.

        Mr. Beyer said the man shot at police from Harrison and Scott counties who had joined the chase. The man abandoned a stolen Toyota Land Cruiser and stole a small flatbed truck.

        He later abandoned the flatbed in Scott County and took a pickup truck, which he was driving when Sgt. Ellison spotted him.

        After shooting Sgt. Ellison, the man fled, driving through a field and through Stonegate subdivision off U.S. 27. He left the truck and stole a white minivan, and also fired at Campbell County Police Officer Van Kowolonek, who had joined the pursuit. The officer fired back, and both vehicles were hit, police say.

        The suspect continued north on U.S. 27, pulling into a car wash near an AmeriStop gas station just south of the Ky. 10 intersection. The suspect then commandeered a blue two-door Chevrolet Beretta being washed by an unidentified woman, who was not hurt. He drove into the gas station, where he was cut off by police at the pumps. Col. Hill said the suspect then opened the door of the car and shot himself in the face.

        Brandon Gross, 16, of Alexandria, who was standing between the car wash and the gas station, said police swarmed the area.

        “The officers yelled, "Drop your gun! Drop your gun!' The man yelled back, "No, I'm not going to do it.' Then I heard two shots.”

        It was unclear late Friday if any officers fired on the suspect at the AmeriStop. No other officers or bystanders were hurt, police said.

        Campbell County Police Chief David Sandfoss said Sgt. Ellison has been a member of the force since 1993.

        “We're thankful that we have a vest policy because it really paid off here,” the chief said.

        Sgt. Ellison's wife joined him Friday evening at the emergency room.

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