FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin State Patrol trooper just three months out of the academy and working the first solo patrol of his “dream job” died in a shootout with a bank robbery suspect also believed to have killed a motorist.
The robbery suspect, Steven Timothy Snyder of Michigan, also died in the confrontation Tuesday with Trooper Trevor Casper in Fond du Lac, in eastern Wisconsin. The FBI said late Wednesday it was looking at Snyder as a possible suspect in two bank robberies Tuesday in Wisconsin as well as other unsolved robberies inside and outside the state.
Snyder was also considered a suspect in the death of the motorist, Thomas C. Christ, 59, of Wausaukee, who was found shot to death not far from the site of Tuesday’s first bank robbery.
Family and friends mourned Casper, 21, as someone who knew early he wanted to go into law enforcement, and was a high achiever in his criminal justice studies.
“He definitely had a servant’s heart,” said Dave Funkhouser, the chief of police in Casper’s hometown of Kiel. The chief, who visited Casper’s parents early in the day, said the small town of about 3,700 shared their grief.
“When an incident like this happens we all hurt,” he said.
State investigators said video surveillance showed Snyder robbed the State Bank of Florence in Wausaukee, about 130 miles to the north at 1:43 p.m. The robber fired a handgun inside the bank, took an unspecified amount of cash and fled in a bank employee’s vehicle.
Less than an hour later Christ was found fatally shot on a road east of Wausaukee, alongside a still-running pickup truck, according to Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve.
Later Tuesday afternoon, a second bank robbery was reported in Fond du Lac. Around 5:30 p.m., Casper spotted the suspect in Fond du Lac and followed him, Fond du Lac Police Chief William Lamb said. The shootout happened shortly thereafter.
Casper joined the patrol in July in a class of recruits who completed training in December. In Kiel, about 30 miles northwest of Fond du Lac, an Associated Press reporter was turned away at the family home Wednesday as a stream of visitors paid their respects. But his parents, Kevin and Debbie Casper, later issued a statement.
“Our son Trevor was an amazing young man who from a young age would do anything to help anyone,” they said. “It did not surprise us when he selected a career in law enforcement. Even as a young child he was always helping others. Trevor had a soft and good heart. He truly believed his sole purpose in life was to serve and protect others.”
Police officers in Kiel wore black bands over their badges in Casper’s memory.
Casper had longed to join the State Patrol, said Ryan Skabroud, dean of public safety programs at Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wisconsin, where he studied criminal justice.
Skabroud said Casper was a high achiever who won a class award for his marksmanship. Another instructor, Lou Richard, said Casper excelled in training on traffic stops, assuming the role of incident commander in role-play situations.
“Truly a natural born leader,” Skabroud said of Casper.
“He came here and got an education that opened a lot of doors for him and got the dream job he wanted,” he said.
He was a popular varsity wrestler and soccer player at Kiel High School, Superintendent Louise Blankenheim said. He graduated in 2011.
In Fond du Lac, U.S. and state flags were at half-staff and flowers were placed at the patrol headquarters where Casper was based.
“Trooper Casper was among the group of brave men and women in the Division of State Patrol who put themselves in dangerous situations each day as they work to keep the people of Wisconsin safe,” Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb said in a statement.
Gov. Scott Walker said Casper was killed “while bravely serving his community.”
Casper was one of two law officers to die in violent incidents Tuesday. In California, Michael Johnson, a 14-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department, was killed when a man threatening to commit suicide fired several shots at officers checking on him at his apartment.
Casper is the first Wisconsin trooper killed by gunfire in the line of duty since 1972, when Donald Pederson was shot by a 16-year-old motorist angry about being cited following a high-speed chase.