PEORIA — A police traffic stop and foot chase early Thursday in South Peoria ended with a gunfight that left an officer shot and a Peoria Heights man dead, police said.
The Peoria officer, a man whose name has not been released, was at a local hospital after being shot in the mid-torso, said Police Chief Jerry Mitchell. The other man, Daniel O. El, 32, of 1008 E. Paris Ave. died at an area hospital after being taken there by paramedics, said Peoria County Coroner Jamie Harwood.
The officer-involved shooting is the second one in the past five months that has resulted in a fatality. On Sept. 20, 2017, police shot and killed Eddie Russell Jr. after a two-hour standoff. Six officers who had shot Russell, 25, as he walked toward them carrying a handgun were cleared earlier this week of any wrongdoing.
Mitchell said during a mid-afternoon news conference Thursday that one of those officers was involved in Thursday morning's incident, though he would not say how that officer was involved or which officer it was. Further details weren't available, the chief said, as the Illinois State Police has taken over the investigation per state statute. The three officers who were involved have been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the state police investigation.
Two police officers in two squad cars tried to stop El's car at about 2:30 a.m. after he had made a stop sign violation near West Lincoln and South Western avenues and was discovered with an expired license plate registration, the chief said.
During the stop, police also removed El's passenger from the car on an unrelated charge. When officers began to move back toward the vehicle, El put it into gear and drove off, the chief said.
He apparently lost control at Garden and Warren streets and fled on foot, according to a statement read by Mitchell.
Officers found the suspect in the 2700 block of Southwest Jefferson Avenue near Apple Street and exchanged gunfire, the chief said.
Willie Hubbard, whose house in the 400 block of Apple Street appeared to be about 50 yards from where some of the shots were fired, said he heard a bunch of gunfire at about 2:30 a.m.
"I heard a few shots, then a lot of shots and then a few more shots, maybe five to six after all that," he said. When he looked outside, he said, he saw several officers in a parking lot off Jefferson. He said he heard the chase between the officers started a few blocks away and after the driver ditched his car, he ran through the alley behind Hubbard's house.
Jefferson Avenue was closed between Garden and Warren streets throughout the morning. Portions of nearby Southwest Adams Street also were closed. A strong police presence remained mid-morning as state troopers conducted a crime scene investigation while Peoria officers stood back and kept people out of the area. But residents were allowed to get to their homes and a water delivery truck was able to stop on Apple Street, within 50 yards — but outside of the yellow crime scene tape — of an area dotted with yellow placards that indicated where shells fell.
Mitchell said he did not know who fired first, and it was not clear if the officers used handguns or rifles. It also wasn't clear how many times El was shot. Harwood said an autopsy was underway mid afternoon, and he would release preliminary autopsy results Friday morning.
Dispatch records show three shots were fired in the 1400 block of West Garden Street and 14 shots were fired in the 300 block of Apple Street. Both occurred within minutes of the traffic stop and are linked to the same police report number.
According to federal and state court records, El had a criminal record that dated back more than a decade. In 2004, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for armed robbery and residential burglary. In July 2003, he and and two others robbed the Big Foot gas station, 2312 N. Knoxville Ave., at gunpoint, taking an undetermined amount of money. While investigating that robbery, police learned El robbed the same station in May 2002. The residential burglary occurred on July 17, 2003, when El and others broke into a home in the 1700 block of North Indiana Avenue and took several items including a TV, computer equipment and a VCR.
In 2009, while on parole, El was arrested during a traffic stop on Memorial Day weekend by the Illinois State Police as part of its monitoring of the Summer Camp music festival at Three Sisters Park in Chillicothe. Initially, El was caught with four rocks of crack cocaine in his pocket. A search of the car revealed a .22-caliber pistol. In December 2009, he was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a handgun. He served just over eight years of that sentence when he filed a habeas corpus petition last year, challenging his sentencing.
In asking to be released, El wrote to Senior U.S. District Judge Joe B. McDade, saying that he had completed several life skills classes while behind bars and that he wanted to be a productive member of society. He wrote the judge a list of goals, one of which was "to be able to speak at schools, prisons and functions about the mistakes I have made and the importance of a non-violent and drug-free society."
He was released in November. The government appealed McDade's decision, saying the habeas petition wasn't proper and that he should not be released without serving additional time.
Less than three months later, he was dead.
Area around the officer involved shooting near Apple and Jeff still blocked off. An officer shot in the leg. Other suspect killed when ppl ran from a traffic stop earlier this AM. See@pjstarpic.twitter.com/KTJlcW9dxo— Andy Kravetz (@andykravetz)February 1, 2018