Kentucky Trooper Was Trying to Help the Man Who Killed Him: Police

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By Tim Stelloh

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."

A Kentucky State Police Trooper was fatally shot after a nine-mile pursuit late Sunday, sparking a manhunt.Kentucky State Police

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.

A Kentucky State Police Trooper was fatally shot after a nine-mile pursuit late Sunday, sparking a manhunt.Kentucky State Police

One of the women, an 18-year-old niece of Johnson-Shanks, Ambrea Shanks, was later arrested and charged with hindering prosecution, Thomas said. Citing an ongoing criminal investigation, he did not provide details of the arrest.

The other passenger, whom Thomas did not identify, was "cooperative," he said "and gave statements to our detectives."

Ponder was a rookie trooper — he started with the Kentucky State Police earlier this year — and a decorated Navy veteran diver, Thomas said.

In a statement released earlier Monday, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said he was "deeply saddened" by the killing.

"Senseless acts like this are a tragic reminder of the risks that our law enforcement officers face every day, just by putting on their uniform and doing their job," the statement said.

"That he was killed in the line of duty makes his death memorable, but we must never forget the most significant part of Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder's story — how he lived, his selfless service to others, and his willingness to give his life for that commitment."