MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio – The man who opened fire and shot two police officers in a rural Amish community, after they pulled him over for a traffic stop in March, may have been planning a separate major act of violence, the police chief said during a news conference Friday afternoon.
“He was planning something,” Chief Arnold Stanko said.
Stanko credited police training and the grace of God for the fact that the two officers, Brandon Savage and Erin Thomas, were not seriously injured, and the suspect was shot dead in the hail of gunfire.
“(The officers) were a better shot,” Stanko said.
James Gilkerson, 42, of Mentor-on-the-Lake, was shot dead in the March 10 shootout in the rural community of Middlefield on North State Avenue.
At a news conference Friday, police showed off his two assault weapons, nine clips of ammunition, gun powder, a ski mask and books on making explosives, police tactics, warfare and how to change your identity.
Police also showed the dash cam footage of the traffic stop to a crowd of reporters.
On it, you can see a green Saturn sedan stopped on the right side of the road.
The officers cannot be seen on the video, but they can be heard.
Stanko said that Thomas and Savage pulled Gilkerson over after he ran a red light.
Thomas, who was on her last day of field training after being hired by the department a month earlier, got out of the passenger’s side and walked around the back of the patrol car and was walking on the driver’s side up to Gilkerson’s car when it happened.
Gilkerson, who was stopped in front of the patrol car, swung open his car door, pulled out an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle and started shooting, Stanko said.
Thomas was hit in the hand, and ran back behind the patrol car for cover.
Meantime, Gilkerson got out of his car and was using a police tactic of walking in a circular motion toward the target while shooting, Stanko said.
Savage was also shot and returned fire through the windshield.
Thomas returned fire from behind the patrol car, he said.
Gilkerson was shot 19 times, and falls to the ground saying “kill me,” before he collapsed.
Stanko does not believe this is a case of ‘suicide by cop,’ he said.
According to the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office, Gilkerson fired 33 rounds from the rifle. Savage fired 29 rounds and Thomas fired 17 rounds.
Thomas sustained a ‘devastating’ injury to her left hand from the gunshot and had to have her index finger amputated.
Stanko believes that Gilkerson only saw Thomas at first and was trying to kill her, when he was caught off-guard by Savage.
Stanko does not have a clear motive on why Gilkerson opened fire on the officers.
He said Gilkerson had the upper-hand because he was shooting with a semi-automatic rifle and the officers were using 9mm handguns, but the officers had better training.
Thomas is recovering at home from her injuries.
Savage had returned to work.