April 22, 2011
LANE COUNTY, Ore. — A Eugene police officer was shot and killed during a chase that started on Interstate 105 around 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.
EPD Chief Pete Kerns says Officer Chris Kilcullen, 43, attempted to stop the female motorist on Interstate 105.
When Kilcullen pursued her car, Kerns says she shot at him, leading him to crash his motorcycle at the intersection of 52nd Street and Highway 126. Officer Kilcullen was transported to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Kilcullen is a 12 -year veteran of the police department. He leaves behind a wife and two children.
Kerns described Kilcullen as very popular, upbeat and friendly, and says he led an honorable career with EPD.
“I am personally angered by this, that someone would kill one of my officers. Our department is greiving, along with his family,” said Kerns.
One witness saw the initial chase from 42nd street. Bobbie Clark of Springfield says the woman went flying by on Highway 126 in a red car, with officer Kilcullen chasing her.
Clark followed the chase.
She says by the time she got to 52nd Street, she saw the officer on the shoulder,under a semi-truck, and the woman was gone.
“It is so sad, they work so hard, and it’s not fair. I was hoping she’d be the one to run into something and not him,” said Clark.
The high-speed chase then led more than 40 law enforcement vehicles from the Lane County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police and Eugene Police on a high-speed chase from Highway 126 to Jasper-Lowell Road.
The chase eventually ended up on Highway 58 before the driver headed up a Forest Service road, nicknamed “Tire Mountain Road” by locals.
One by one, police and then SWAT negotiaters followed the suspect’s car up the rough, single lane service road for 15 miles, until the suspect couldn’t go any further.
As the Lane County Sheriff’s Office helicopter hovered overhead, the woman reached a dead end.
For hours, SWAT teams, a helicopter and K-9 units worked to get the driver out of the car. She eventually gave herself up around 7:30 p.m. The driver hasn’t been identified yet.
Investigators say no shots were fired during the negotiation process, but the situation required the effort of law enforcement agencies from Oakridge all the way to Junction City.
“I’m thankful to all of the agencies who helped to capture her, help maintain the crime scene and particularly to the Springfield Police Department who are conducting the investigation,” said Kerns.
What exactly transpired on the mountain is still unclear. We’ll have the details as soon as the Springfield Department releases them.
Eugene City Councilor Mike Clark posted tonight on Facebook that “The officer who passed tonight was a friend of mine. He was a gentle man and a kind soul. A dedicated public servant with a heart filled with concern for others. Our community has lost a warrior for good. We are all poorer for his passing – but richer to have known him. I am very sad tonight – but honored to have called him friend.”
The Eugene Police Employees’ Association also released a statement about Kilcullen Friday night.
“This is a moment of pure sorrow. Today, we lost a brother, officer, killed in the line of duty. There is no greater sacrifice. Our devoted prayers are with this fine officer’s family. This void in law enforcement will remain forever. We now have a guardian angel walking the beat. God speed, our beloved friend.”
There’s been an outpouring of support for Kilcullen on Facebook, as the community mourns the death of another law enforcement officer. Across the country, there have been 62 so far in 2011. Twenty-nine of those officers were shot. That’s a 71 percent increase from last year when 17 officers died by gunfire nationwide.