Photo: ABC News
Kentucky state trooper Joseph Ponder was just 31, a decorated Navy veteran diver who’d just started with the Kentucky State Police earlier this year.
He was fatally shot after a traffic stop on Sunday night.As tragic as this killing already is on its face, when you learn what the trooper, Ponder, was trying to do for the suspect –just moments before the suspect turned around and killed him — it will break your heart.
As NBC News reports:The Kentucky state trooper who was fatally shot after a traffic stop on Sunday night was trying to help the man who allegedly killed him, Kentucky State Police spokesman Jay Thomas said in a news conference.
The trooper, Joseph Ponder, 31, pulled over Joseph Johnson-Shanks, 25, on an interstate just after 10 p.m. It was unclear why the trooper conducted the traffic stop, Thomas said, though Ponder quickly discovered that Johnson-Shanks’ driver’s license was suspended.Two women who were also in the car — one was 18, the other was 22 — didn’t have licenses either, Thomas said, so Ponder tried to arrange for a hotel for everyone — there were also two young children in the vehicle, police said.
So he wouldn’t have to take the driver to jail,” Thomas said, “he was trying to help them out.”
This state trooper was trying to arrange for a hotel for this group of folks he’d stopped who didn’t have licenses. This would have been a kind-hearted move for any stranger to offer — and even more so for a police officer who by all rights could have simply escorted these folks driving illegally to jail.
Then, “for an unknown reason,” Thomas said, Johnson-Shanks fled the scene, leading Ponder on a 9-mile chase. Johnson-Shanks slammed on the brakes, Johnson said, and Ponder “positioned” his car against the fleeing suspect’s vehicle.
“At that point, Mr. Johnson-Shanks leaned out the driver’s side window and fired several rounds into the trooper’s car, hitting the hood and windshield and trooper Ponder,” Thomas said.
Ponder was transported to a hospital in Princeton, Kentucky, where he died just before midnight.
Johnson-Shanks fled the scene on foot, and after a “massive” all-night manhunt, Thomas said, he was found in a forest near the interstate just before 7 a.m.
After pointing a gun at police and refusing to drop it, he was shot and killed