FOND DU LAC, Wis. (AP) — A rookie Wisconsin state trooper was hailed as a hero Thursday for killing a heavily armed bank robbery suspect four months ago even after suffering a fatal gunshot wound.
Trevor Casper, 21, was on his first solo patrol March 24 when he was ambushed by suspect Steven Timothy Snyder, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney said. Casper was the first Wisconsin trooper to die by gunfire in more than four decades.
Toney gave the fullest account yet of a bloody 17-second shootout and the events leading up to it, saying that his investigation left “absolutely no doubt” that Casper was justified in using deadly force and found no fault with the rookie officer’s actions. Toney said Snyder, who authorities would later link to nine bank robberies in multiple states, had two guns and 137 unfired rounds on his person or in his car when he died.
“Trevor Casper is a hero who, after he had already been shot by the suspect, then shot and killed a man who had already committed armed bank robbery, stolen a vehicle and killed a Wisconsin citizen earlier that day,” Toney said at a news conference. “Trevor’s actions resulted in him laying down his life to protect our community.”
Casper’s name soon will be etched into law enforcement memorials in Madison and Washington, State Patrol Col. Brian Rahn said.
In a statement read by Capt. Anthony Burrell, Casper’s family said he always put others above himself.
“We are extremely proud of the dedication, compassion and reliability that Trevor brought with him to the Wisconsin State Patrol. Trevor told his dad … he didn’t have any concerns for his first day on his own as a state trooper,” the statement said.
The events leading to the confrontation began when Snyder robbed a bank in the small town of Wausaukee and later killed a citizen about a mile away. As authorities in Fond du Lac County sought Snyder, Casper spotted his car and began tailing it.
Toney said Casper kept his distance and calmly radioed in reports of his position. At some point, Snyder became aware he was being tailed, turning through parking lots and reversing course, Toney said. Then, he doubled back in an alley and confronted Casper, firing a shot that struck the trooper as he was seated in his car.
Despite being wounded in the neck, Casper got out of his car and was hit by two more rounds, including one that passed through his vest and lung and would later be ruled by a medical examiner as the fatal wound. Still, Toney said, Casper maneuvered around his vehicle to keep Snyder in view.
Meanwhile, Snyder was moving around Casper’s car, trying to reload his gun with a 21-bullet magazine. The magazine failed and Snyder tried to run, but Casper fired 12 shots, including one round that hit Snyder in the back and passed through his heart.
All nine rounds Snyder fired at Casper were armor-piercing Toney said.
Casper was 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.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice initially said Snyder, 38, of Koylton Township, Mich., about 70 miles north of Detroit, robbed a bank in Wausaukee on March 24. Authorities believe Snyder killed 59-year-old Thomas Christ not far from the robbery scene.
Wausaukee is a northeastern Wisconsin village of about 575 people just a few miles from the border with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Michigan authorities said this week that Snyder was responsible for nine bank robberies in three states. A Fond du Lac bank was robbed about an hour before Casper confronted Snyder in that city but authorities said at the news conference that Snyder isn’t linked to that incident.
Court records show Snyder was part of a group of skinheads who attacked black and Hispanic people in Fond du Lac nearly 20 years ago. He had several “White Power” tattoos and was carrying several dozen printed cards in his coat promoting a neo-Nazi organization when he was arrested in April 1996.