Massive manhunt in Kentucky yields suspected shooter of police trooper

Kentucky Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder was fatally shot Sunday night during a traffic stop. The suspect, Joseph Johnson Shanks, was shot and killed Monday. 

Courtesy of the Kentucky State Police via AP
This undated photo provided by the Kentucky State Police shows Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks. Johnson-Shanks is the suspect in the killing of a Kentucky State Trooper during a car chase, late Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015, along Interstate 24, in Kentucky.

[Update:  According to Judge Executive Wade White of Lyon County, Joseph Johnson Shanks is in custody after his alleged involvement in a high-speed chase and killing of state trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. But the Washington Post is reporting that Johnson-Shanks was fatally shot during his capture.]

A manhunt is underway in Kentucky for a suspect who fatally shot a state police trooper Sunday night.

Kentucky Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder conducted a traffic stop on Interstate 24 at about 10:20 p.m. The driver fled in his vehicle and a pursuit ensued on I-24 with "the suspect stopping abruptly around the 49 mile marker, causing the front of Trooper Ponder’s police cruiser to make contact with the rear of the suspect vehicle. At this time, the driver of the suspect vehicle fired several shots into the police cruiser striking the hood, windshield and Trooper Ponder multiple times. The suspect fled the scene on foot," according to a statement on the Kentucky State Police website.

The shooting comes at a time of heightened sensitivity over police shootings in the U.S., where Black Lives Matter activists protest amid multiple instances of white police on black civilian violence. On Saturday, apparently as a counter-action, thousands gathered in Houston, Texas, for a "Police Lives Matter" march to honor Texas Deputy Darren Goforth, an officer who was fatally shot last month; the shooter, who is black, was arrested.

"We've heard black lives matter; all lives matter. Well cops' lives matter too," County Sheriff Ron Hickman said at a news conference following the arrest. "At any point where the rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated cold-blooded assassination of police officers happen[s], this rhetoric has gotten out of control.”

Texas State Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D) of Houston criticized Hickman’s remarks, The Christian Science Monitor previously reported.

“It strikes me as politicizing a death that, I don’t know that anyone knows what was in the mind of the shooter,” said Rep. Coleman, who is leading an inquiry into the death of Sandra Bland, an African-American woman found dead in a Waller County jail cell in July.

“I think black lives matter,” he continued. “I think deputy sheriffs’ lives matter. But I think the statement shows a lack of understanding of what is occurring in this country when it comes to the singling out of African-Americans.”

The suspect in the police shooting in Kentucky, who officials say fled the scene on foot, has been identified as 25-year-old Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks of Missouri. He was described as a black male who's about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing about 140 pounds.

Ponder, the victim, had graduated from the Kentucky State Police training academy in January and was stationed at the state police post in Mayfield, according to a news release.

The Associated Press reports that state police and other law enforcement agencies - employing helicopters and dogs – were involved in the search. Trooper Jay Thomas said there are numerous vacant summer homes in the area.

"We have a massive search going on right now with multiple agencies trying to locate the shooter," Thomas said.

Police closed a 9-mile section of Interstate 24 while the search was being conducted.

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