UPDATE: New Info on Fatal Shooting of KSP Trooper on I-24

Sep 14, 2015

(left) KSP Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder; (right) Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks of Florissant, MO
Credit KSP

UPDATE 5:28PM More information has come to light about the events leading up to the fatal shooting of a Kentucky State Police Trooper on I-24 last night. 

KSP Spokesman held a press conference this afternoon at Post 1 Headquarters in Mayfield. 

KSP Spokesman Trp Jay Thomas
Credit Lance Dennee

Thomas says Trooper Joseph Ponder pulled over Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks for a traffic stop on I-24 in Lyon County near milemarker 55 westbound.  Thomas says Ponder clocked the vehicle going 103mph. Upon running the plates, the trooper ascertained that Johnson-Shanks was driving on a suspended license. 

Ponder then determined that none of the vehicle's occupants (Johnson-Shanks, his 18-year-old niece Ambrea Shanks, a 22-year-old female) had valid driver's licenses.  Two juveniles under the age of six were also in the vehicle. Thomas says Ponder then returned to his trooper car to arrange a hotel room for the vehicle's occupants and did not intend to arrest Johnson-Shanks for the minor traffic infraction.  However, the driver then sped off while the trooper was still in his vehicle.  A pursuit ensued at one point reaching a max speed of 115 mph.

“For an unknown reason the driver fled the scene," said Thomas. "At approximately 10:50 p.m. the driver abruptly stopped the car near the 49 mile marker. At that point Mr. Johnson Shanks leaned out the driver’s side window and fired several rounds into the trooper car hitting the hood, the windshield and Trooper Ponder.”

Johnson-Shanks then fled the scene on foot leaving the other occupants in the car while deputies arrived on scene to assist Trooper Ponder. Ponder was sent to Caldwell Medical Center in Princeton and died of his injuries around 11:41PM.

Johnson-Shanks was located in a wooded area miles from the crash scene and was shot by the KSP's Special Response Team after refusing to relinquish his firearm and raising it at police.  He later died of his injuries after also being sent to the Caldwell Medical Center in Princeton. 

Thomas says the KSP does have the authority to investigate its own shootings.  The investigation continues. Refer to previous posts for further information. 

10:00 Post: A Missouri man suspected of killing a Kentucky State Trooper late last night is dead after a shootout with police this morning.  

KSP began searching for 25-year-old Joseph Johnson-Shanks following the shooting of Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder of Rineyville during a routine traffic stop on I-24 in Lyon County last night.  Ponder, 31, was a 2015 graduate of the KSP Training Academy and a US Navy veteran and was assigned to Trigg County out of Post 1 Mayfield.

Ponder is the second KSP Post 1 Trooper to be killed on duty this year. 23-year-old Trooper Eric Chrisman of Lawrenceburg died in June. He was responding to a reckless driving complaint when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tractor-trailor truck. Ponder and Chrisman were in the same KSP Academy class.

During a press conference this morning, KSP Post 1 Spokesman Jay Thomas says that around 10:20PM last night, Trooper Ponder conducted the traffic stop on I-24 around the milemarker 55 westbound.

Along with the driver, there were three other occupants in the vehicle: one adult female and two juveniles. After making contact, the vehicle's driver fled from the stop. A pursuit ensued and the suspect stopped abruptly around milemarker 49 causing the trooper's vehicle to crash into the rear of the suspect's vehicle.

"At that point, the suspect leaned out of the driver's side window and fired multiple rounds at the trooper car striking the hood, the windshield and striking our trooper," said Thomas. He also said its possible Ponder tried to move his car once the shooting began.

The suspect then fled the scene on foot.

Trooper Ponder was transported to Caldwell Medical Center and died of his injuries at 11:41PM.

Thomas says the other occupants of the vehicle were detained but not charged.

Credit KSP

Update 3:55PM: KSP says they've arrested Ambrea R.J. Shanks (18, of Florissant, MO) with Hindering Prosecution or Apprehension 1st Degree, a class D felony. She was lodged in the Caldwell County Jail. She was a passenger in the vehicle and a niece to Joseph Thomas Johnston-Shanks. There were 3 additional passengers in the vehicle: two passengers are under the age of six and a twenty-two year old female. The juvenile passengers were released to a relative.

K-9 units and helicopters from the Tennessee Highway Patrol were utilized in the search for Johnson-Shanks.

Thomas says troopers with the KSP's Special Response Team located the suspect around 7AM this morning in a wooded area miles away from the shooting.  

"Shanks was armed with a firearm," said Thomas. "He refused verbal commands from our Troopers to lower his weapon. A trooper from the Kentucky State Police Special Response Team shot Mr. Shanks. Mr. Shanks was then taken into custody after he was shot. Mr. Shanks was transported via ambulance to the Caldwell Medical Center in Princeton, Kentucky where he succumbed to his injuries at 8:23 AM."

He was transported via ground ambulance to the Caldwell Medical Center in Princeton for treatment where he succumbed to his injuries at 8:20AM this morning.  Lyon County EMS Director Michael Wiggins said Johnson-Shanks had suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Thomas says a medevac helicopter was called for and available on scene but was turned away

"Once he was shot by our SRT, we just immediately notified an air ambulance," said Thomas. "We didn't know what type of injuries he received. We just wanted them on standby. Once the air-- ground ambulance got there, the decision was made that it would be, uh, better just to transport him by ground ambulance."

Air Evac company spokeswoman Shelly Schnyder confirms that craft Air Evac 120 out of Crittenden County was called out this morning and was canceled after dispatching, but could not disclose the destination or who canceled the call citing HIPA confidentiality. Wiggins said by the time they could load Johnson Shanks on the helicopter, his condition had worsened to a point where it was better to transport him by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

An autopsy was conducted on Trooper Ponder today in Louisville. His results are pending. 

An autopsy for Johnson-Shanks will conducted in Madisonville tomorrow. 

Thomas says the loss of a trooper has impacted the KSP. 

"I would say that we're a very close, tight-knit group and we're all, we're all brothers and sisters," said Thomas. "[Ponder] was a very proud to be a Kentucky State trooper. He was new, he was eager, and absolutely loved his job." 

Further details of the investigation are set to be released this afternoon.  

I-24 remains closed between MM 45 and 56 remains closed while the investigation continues.