February 19, 2009

High Speed Chase, Shootout, Manhunt… All in a Day’s Work For Local Law Officers

Reports of shots fired at a Scotland County Sheriff’s deputy brought more than 50 law enforcement officers from nearly 20 different Missouri and Iowa agencies to the northeast Missouri community where a nearly day-long search for three suspects ended without further incident late Thursday afternoon, February 12th.

The incident began Thursday morning when Scotland County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Whitney located a suspect wanted for fleeing from officers the previous week during an attempted drug arrest.

A warrant for the arrest of Christopher J. Armstrong, 23, on drug charges had led Whitney back to the man’s residence on Route EE in northernmost Scotland County. Officers had been watching the home ever since Armstrong had fled from the scene on February 6th, after an alleged meth lab was discovered by responders to a grass fire at the scene.

Whitney identified Armstrong outside of the home as he approached the property at 8:35 a.m. The fugitive fled the scene in a 1995 Ford Escort, along with two other individuals, and a pursuit began eastbound on Route EE. Whitney followed the vehicle, which was reported stolen from Queen City earlier that morning, as it turned north on a county gravel road and eventually crossed the state line into Van Buren County Iowa.

The pursuit again turned eastbound as the car traveled down gravel roads as it traversed much of the southern part of Van Buren County before entering Mount Sterling.

At the intersection of Van Buren County gravel roads 295th and Lark Avenue, the stolen car reportedly came to a sudden stop just over the crest of a hill. The car reportedly was turned sideways in the roadway, and the driver exited the car. As the sheriff’s department truck crested the hill, the driver allegedly fired several rounds from a handgun at the oncoming vehicle. At least one of the bullets struck the sheriff’s department truck.

One shot impacted the driver’s side door of the sheriff’s department truck, passing through the door and the base of the driver’s seat before becoming lodged in the truck’s transmission.

The vehicle then fled east into Mount Sterling, IA, circling the town before back tracking down the same gravel road west bound. An officer from the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department joined the chase at this point.

After leaving Mount Sterling, the chase turned back south on Maple Avenue, which eventually turns into County Road 721 in extreme northeast Scotland County.

The pursuit finally ended south of Route P at an intersection of two county roads when the officers lost sight of the vehicle.

Responding law officers began to establish a road perimeter around the area. A short time later, one of the law enforcement aircraft spotted the vehicle in a farm field not far from the intersection where officers lost contact with the suspects.

The fugitive’s vehicle had apparently became stuck in the mud in a farm field on property owned by Kurt Bensinger.

Officers converged on the scene after the initial chase, which had covered approximately 18.5 miles.

One of the passengers in the car, Kenneth A. Thompson, 35, of Kirksville was apprehended near the vehicle, shortly after the chase concluded. He was taken into custody by Sheriff Wayne Winn at 10:50 a.m.

Armstrong and a second passenger, Michelle L. Brand, 27, reportedly had fled the vehicle into the nearby timber.

Law enforcement agents from three counties in Iowa and four counties in northeast Missouri began converging on the scene. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Iowa State Patrol sent officers as well as aircraft to the scene. One of the Iowa State Patrol planes was equipped with infrared search equipment. K-9 search units were sent from the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison, IA, as well as from the Hannibal Police Department.

A perimeter was established around the wooded area, and air patrols began searching for the two suspects. The two K-9 units were also used to search the area. Law enforcement officers conducted searches of nearby outbuildings and performed security checks at residences in the vicinity. Neighboring property owners were warned of the situation and advised to lock their doors and report any contact to the sheriff’s department. A nearby Mennonite school was also advised to lock down.

The tense situation finally concluded at 5:48 p.m. when a neighboring property owner reported sighting two individuals on foot near Route P. Officers responded to the location and the duo was apprehended with out further incident.

On February 13th Scotland County Prosecuting Attorney Kimberly J. Nicoli filed felony charges against all three individuals as related to the vehicle theft.

Thompson, Brand and Armstrong all have been charged with the Class C felony of tampering in the first degree, for knowingly possessing an automobile without the consent of the owner.

The car was owned by Andrea Owen of Queen City. No charges have been filed in Schuyler County as of press time on February 17th.

Additional charges were filed against Armstrong stemming from the February 6th incident at his residence. Armstrong had been charged with the class D felony of possession of anhydrous ammonia in a non-approved container. He now faces the class B felony charge of attempt to manufacture a controlled substance, and the class c felony charge of receiving stolen property stemming from a stolen 2005 4-wheeler recovered at his residence.

The shooting occurred in Van Buren County, IA. As of February 17th no charges had been filed. Law enforcement officers were searching for the handgun used in the shooting, which was reportedly abandoned in a creek as the fugitives were attempting to flee. A special dive team was being used on February 17th to help recover the weapon.

Armstrong is being held in the Clark County Detention Center on a $500,000 cash only bond and also has a parole/probation violation warrant with no bond.

Thompson is currently being held in the Scotland County Jail without bond on a probation/parole violation warrant.

Brand is being held in the Clark County Detention Center on a $50,000 bond.

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