State police: Trooper who was gunned down was trying to help suspect

Tpr. Joseph Ponder - and - Joseph Johnson-Shanks
By  | 

LYON COUNTY, KY (WKYT/AP) - A Kentucky State Police trooper wanted to do a favor for the driver he pulled over late at night. It turned out the man was driving with a suspended license, so the lawman was arranging for lodging for the man and his fellow travelers, including two children.

Those plans soon unraveled, with tragic results.

The driver took off during the Sunday night stop on a rural stretch of interstate.

KSP investigators have identified the suspect as 25-year-old Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks.

State police say he shot and killed trooper Joseph Ponder during the second traffic stop on I-24 in Lyon County.

The fallen trooper was a star athlete who turned down a track scholarship at Western Kentucky University to join the Navy.

His suspected killer was a Missouri man with a criminal history.

Ponder, a 31 year old veteran, graduated from the state police training academy in January.

He had been on the job nine months when troopers say he tried to stop Johnson-Shanks around 10:30 Sunday night.

According to KSP, the Missouri man pulled over on I-24 but then he took off again with Ponder on his trail.

State police say when Johnson-Shanks slammed on the brakes, the trooper's cruiser crashed into his car. That's when investigators say Johnson-Shanks leaned out his window and fired several times, killing the trooper.

The man from Missouri was found hiding in a wooded area near the interstate around 7 a.m.

State police tell WKYT that they told him to lower his gun and when he didn't they started firing. He was taken to the hospital where he died.

Monday morning, law enforcement from near and far descended upon Lyon County to escort Ponder's body and give him a hero's farewell.

As for Johnson-Shanks, state police say he was traveling through the state in a vehicle with a woman and two children. They aren't saying how or if they are related but they all were taken into custody.

State police tell WKYT that they have a long investigation ahead.

They say they are still trying to figure out why Ponder was trying to stop Johnson-Shanks and why the 25 year old allegedly pulled a gun on the trooper.

Ponder was from Rineyville and was stationed at Post 1 in Mayfield.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Friday at the Severns Valley Baptist Church in Elizabetown.

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station. powered by Disqus