19 September 2015

His Life Mattered

Yesterday I had to make a quick trip to my credit union to have a new debit card made. On my way there, I noticed the main drag through my town set up for a funeral procession for Kentucky State Trooper Joseph C. Ponder who was killed in the line of duty on 13 September. I felt compelled to find a place to stand and salute him as his body was transported to the cemetery.

Joseph Cameron Ponder, 31, stopped a vehicle that was driving 103 miles per hour on Interstate 24, and the vehicle then took off with Trooper Ponder in pursuit, according to the State Police. After a short chase, the fleeing vehicle stopped suddenly, causing the trooper’s cruiser to “make contact” with the rear of the suspect’s vehicle, the police said.

The gunman then fired several times into the police cruiser, hitting Trooper Ponder, the police said.

The suspect, who was identified as Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks, 25, of Missouri, then ran, the police said. Trooper Ponder was taken to a hospital in Princeton, Ky., where he died shortly before midnight.

Four other people, two of them younger than 6, were in Mr. Johnson-Shanks’s car at the time of the shooting, said Trooper First Class Jay Thomas, a public affairs officer. One of the others, Ambrea R. J. Shanks, 18, was arrested on charges of hindering prosecution or apprehension.

Mr. Johnson-Shanks was found by state troopers in the woods near the highway on Monday morning after an eight-hour manhunt, the police said. Mr. Johnson-Shanks was shot multiple times by the police after he refused to drop his weapon and then aimed it in the troopers’ direction, said Sgt. Michael Webb, the public affairs commander for the Kentucky State Police. Mr. Johnson-Shanks later died at the same hospital in Princeton.

The Kentucky State Police said Trooper Ponder had graduated from the state’s training academy in January and been stationed at the State Police post in Mayfield. He had served as a special Navy diver and been decorated with a Combat Action Ribbon.

He was the second first-year officer with Kentucky’s State Police to die in the line of duty this year. Trooper Eric K. Chrisman was killed in a car accident while on his way to respond to a report of a reckless driver in June.

Gov. Steven L. Beshear said in a statement that Trooper Ponder should be remembered for “how he lived, his selfless service to others and his willingness to give his life for that commitment.”

Mr. Johnson-Shanks lived in Florissant, Mo., and had recent run-ins with law enforcement. Shawn McGuire, a media relations officer with the St. Louis County Police Department, said Mr. Johnson-Shanks was the leading suspect in a May theft of $1,285 in lottery tickets and winnings.

Trooper Ponder gave all. His life mattered.