Police: Ky. State Trooper Was Trying to Help Man Who Fatally Shot Him


A Kentucky state trooper who was fatally shot by a suspect Sunday night was trying to help the man who ended his life, Kentucky State Police say, according to NBC News


State Trooper Joseph Ponder pulled over Joseph Johnson-Shanks around 10 p.m. Sunday on an interstate highway. It is not clear why Ponder initiated the traffic stop, but the trooper soon realized that Johnson-Shanks was driving with a suspended license. Two women who were in the car, an 18-year-old and a 22-year-old, did not have licenses, and so, according to state police spokesman Jay Thomas, Ponder attempted to get a hotel room for everyone. There were also two small children in the car at the time. 

"So he wouldn't have to take the driver to jail," Thomas explained during a press conference. "He was trying to help them out."

However, "for an unknown reason," Thomas said, Johnson-Shanks fled, forcing Ponder to pursue him for about 9 miles. Eventually Ponder was able to "position" his car against the fleeing 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 died at a hospital just before midnight Sunday, according to NBC News. Johnson-Shanks continued to flee on foot, prompting a "massive" all-night manhunt before he was found at 7 a.m.

Johnson-Shanks pointed a gun at police and refused to drop the weapon, authorities said. He was shot and killed. 


The 18-year-old woman who was in the vehicle, identified as Johnson-Shanks' niece, Ambrea Shanks, was arrested and charged with hindering prosecution, according to NBC News. Thomas said that he could not provide any more details regarding the ongoing criminal investigation. 

The other passenger, who remains unidentified, was reportedly "cooperative … and gave statements to our detectives," Thomas said. 


According to NBC, Ponder was a rookie, having only started his career with the Kentucky State Police earlier this year. He was a decorated, veteran Navy diver. 

Read more at NBC News