About this story: To identify trends among fatal shootings by police, The Post studied whether the individuals killed were unarmed or armed with weapons and reviewed the actions they took in the immediate moments before police shot them. The Post has compiled a database of all fatal shootings nationwide by officers in the line of duty in 2015.
By AMY BRITTAIN
Washington Post, October 24, 2015
FOND DU LAC, Wis.
Stopped in his patrol cruiser, Trooper Trevor Casper searched for a gray Toyota Corolla on a busy stretch of Highway 41. Behind the wheel was Steven Timothy Snyder, a bank robber and killer on the run. When Casper spotted Snyder about 5:30 p.m., he eased his cruiser into southbound traffic, following the Corolla at a distance, keeping his lights and siren off.
But Snyder soon realized he was being followed. Outside the Pick ’n Save grocery store, he abruptly turned his car around. He raised his semiautomatic pistol and opened fire, striking Casper in the neck.
Snyder and Casper jumped out of their cars while they were still rolling. The 21-year-old trooper, armed with a .40-caliber Glock, and the 38-year-old bank robber circled the cruiser, guns blazing. Casper fired 12 rounds; Snyder got off nine armor-piercing bullets, one of which penetrated Casper’s ballistic vest. And when it was over, Snyder lay dying of a gunshot wound to his back.
“Bad guy is down,” a dispatcher reported.
Casper collapsed and then dropped his gun. March 24 was his first solo day on the job — and his last. Shot three times, he became the youngest law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Wisconsin history. Casper is among 31 officers this year who have been shot to death by perpetrators, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. He was hailed as a hero for stopping Snyder, who had magazines of ammunition tucked in his socks and left a manifesto promising “to go down fighting hard.”
Wisconsin State Patrol Trooper Trevor Casper was killed in the line of duty on March 24 in Fond du Lac, Wis. He was the youngest law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty in Wisconsin history. (Courtesy of the Casper Family)
Snyder’s killing, as documented in interviews and police reports, is among the 800 fatal shootings by police so far this year. As the tally continues to grow, so does public debate and criticism over police use of deadly force.
But only a small number of the shootings — roughly 5 percent — occurred under the kind of circumstances that raise doubt and draw public outcry, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The vast majority of individuals shot and killed by police officers were, like Snyder, armed with guns and killed after attacking police officers or civilians or making other direct threats.