Motorist stopped to assist slain police trooper in Kentucky

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2015 1:58 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A traveler came to the aid of a Kentucky State Police trooper who was shot during a high-speed chase and updated a dispatcher on the wounded lawman's condition while officers rushed to the scene, according to a police scanner recording.

Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder, 31, died Sunday night after he was shot by Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks, 25, of Florissant, Missouri, authorities said. Johnson-Shanks was stopped for speeding and had a suspended license, and while the trooper was arranging lodging for him and his passengers, he took off, leading to the chase.

On the recording, Ponder is heard calmly describing the chase that reached speeds of 115 mph on a rural stretch of Interstate 24 in the western part of the state.

Ponder, a Navy veteran who had been on the state police force less than a year, provided a description of the suspect and approximate ages of passengers. As the chase continued, Ponder told the dispatcher that the suspect's car had a blown tire.

Ponder then called out: "Shots fired, shots fired. I'm hit. I'm hit. I need assistance. Passing out."

About a minute later, a motorist is heard contacting the dispatcher.

"I really don't know what to say here," he said. "I just pulled over. I heard gunshots. This officer, I don't think he can breathe well."

He gave their location as other law officers neared the scene.

"Whoever this is talking on the radio, keep talking to us," the dispatcher replied. "How's he doing? Is he breathing?"

State police Trooper Jay Thomas said Wednesday that the scanner recording was authentic.

The motorist on the recording was one of two people who stopped to assist Ponder, Thomas said. He didn't identify them.

"He stopped, his buddy dialed 911 and he was trying to render aid until the trooper got there," Thomas said.

The other man ran down the highway to find the mile marker for authorities, he said. Officers arrived within minutes.

Ponder was taken to a hospital, where he later died. Johnson-Shanks ran away after Ponder was shot. The suspect was found in a wooded area about 9 miles from the initial stop and less than a mile from where the trooper was gunned down.

Johnson-Shanks drew a weapon, ignored commands to drop it and was shot, Thomas said.

Before his death, the suspect posted a video in which he said he did something he didn't mean to do and regretted it.

Ponder's funeral will be Friday.