RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) — A central Kentucky police officer was shot in the head and severely wounded Wednesday morning while searching an apartment for a man who tried to mug a woman in the parking lot of a downtown gas station, authorities and witnesses said.
Richmond Police Officer Daniel Ellis, 33, was ambushed in the bedroom by a fugitive who allegedly told his friend moments earlier that he had spent "half his life in prison and not going back," according to a police report detailing the incident.
Ellis, a seven-year veteran of the force, suffered life-threatening injuries and remained at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky State Police Trooper Robert Purdy said.
A second officer returned fire and shot the suspect, 34-year-old Raleigh Sizemore Jr., who had absconded parole on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine and criminal mischief, according to state Department of Corrections records.
Sizemore was released from the hospital Wednesday and charged with attempted murder of a police officer and unlawful imprisonment first degree.
Two others in the apartment during the shootout were also arrested: Gregory Ratliff, 25, was charged with complicity to commit murder, and Rita Creech, 44, was booked with robbery in the first degree.
All three are being held at the Madison County Detention Center.
The ordeal began around 7:15 a.m. when a regular customer stopped at the Gulf gas station on Main Street in downtown Richmond, a town of 32,000 about 100 miles southeast of Louisville. Manager Missi McCoy said the customer was returning to her car in the parking lot when a van pulled up next to her and a man jumped out and tried to grab her purse.
As the woman struggled with the robber, McCoy said, a man walking to work across the street saw what was happening and ran to help.
The robber jumped back into the van and the driver sped away, McCoy said. The woman, though panicked and crying, managed to get the license plate number and called police to report the incident. She said the mugger had threatened her with a gun, McCoy said.
McCoy and her customers were stunned by the daylight mugging on the busy downtown corner, just two blocks from City Hall and near the Richmond Police Department, which has 56 sworn officers.
More than three hours later, around 10:30 a.m., two Richmond police officers investigating the mugging went to Ratliff's apartment on Ballard Drive, about a mile from the gas station, according to the police report.
Sizemore allegedly told Ratliff he did not intend to go back to prison and warned "not to let them in or he would shoot him," the report says. He then led Creech to a bedroom in the back of the apartment with a gun in his hand, the report says.
Ratliff let Ellis into the apartment and allowed him to search, but said no one else was there and there were no weapons in the home, according to the report.
The report alleges that Sizemore shot Ellis in the head "as soon as he began to cross the threshold of the bedroom door."
Kevin Lee, who lives in the apartment complex, said he heard a series of gunshots and rushed to his second-story back window, overlooking the scene.
Lee said he saw the officer bleeding on the sidewalk, a few feet outside the apartment's front door. A few minutes later, he said, he saw officers drag a handcuffed, bleeding man out of the apartment. He said the man was screaming.
"It was pretty chaotic," Lee said.
Several hundred people gathered outside the police station for a vigil late Wednesday, as Ellis remained in the hospital.
"He was always in a good mood, always had a smile on his face," said Richmond Police Major Steve Gregg. "He was always eager to help his fellow officers. Police work is like a big brotherhood. And he was like everybody's brother."
Ellis was in line to be promoted to detective by early next year, Gregg said.
Residents flocked to the station and dropped plates of food and flowers at the door.
"It's something that as a community you just don't think is going to happen to you and one of your officers," Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes said. "It's a sad day."
This story corrects that Ellis was in line to be promoted to detective by early next year, not next month.