SIGOURNEY — Nine yellow flowers were placed on the ground outside the Keokuk County Sheriff’s Office Monday evening. While the person who brought them there went unnoticed, the intent seems clear: to memorialize Keokuk County Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Stein, 38, who was shot and killed earlier in the day. His alleged killer, 53-year-old Jeff Krier, was later shot and killed by members of the Iowa State Patrol Tactical Unit.
“You never want to hear that call come over the radio”
It was the first time in 25 years an Iowa law enforcement officer was shot and killed while on duty. Stein, Sherriff Jeff Shipley and Deputy Casey Hinnah were responding to Krier’s home on 249th Street a few miles southwest of Sigourney just before noon to talk to Krier about an incident that reportedly occurred the night before, according to a news release. “You never want to hear that call come over the radio,” Iowa State Patrol Trooper Jason Marlow said.
When they arrived, the officers received fire, and Stein was shot and died. Authorities declined to say where in the body he was shot and whether he was wearing any protective gear, like a vest. Shipley and Hinnah were not injured. Law enforcement agencies at the city, county and state level responded to the scene, Marlow said.
Krier, who court records show living at 18327 249th St., in Sigourney, refused to come out of the residence until 2:50 p.m., when he emerged armed with weapons, according to the news release. He was shot and killed at the scene by members of the Iowa State Patrol Tactical Unit.
Many aspects of the incident remain under investigation and Marlow said he was not at liberty to disclose many details. That includes the circumstances of the incident the night before at Krier’s. As for why three officers responded the next day, he said sometimes there’s safety in numbers.
“I don’t think it’s landed yet”
Stein had served with the Keokuk County Sheriff’s Office since July 2000. “Our team has lost one of its valued members and friends,” Shipley, the sheriff, said in a statement. “But our loss cannot be compared to that of his family. We ask that everyone keep Deputy Stein’s family is their thoughts and prayers as they go through this difficult time.
Delwin Briggs, 66, of Pharr, Texas is a second cousin to Stein. Stein’s grandparents live nearby and his father, Lonnie, of What Cheer, was visiting and training local girls softball teams when he got the news Eric had been killed. “I don’t think it’s landed yet,” Briggs said.
He said Eric Stein had a daughter, Shelby, who was in the third- or fourth-grade and a sister living in a care home whom he was close with. Briggs said Stein loved sports and was committed to the community, noting that he was a paramedic before becoming a sheriff’s deputy.
Briggs is driving with the family up to Iowa Tuesday after they were unable to get a flight.
“A little bit weird once in a while”
Krier was found not guilty by reason of insanity to charges of stalking, carrying weapons, possession of a controlled substance and driving on a suspended license in Wapello County following a November 1996 incident, online court records show. As part of the case, a complete psychiatric evaluation was completed but Krier was later released to the custody of Rose and Glen Krier, court records showed.
Krier pleaded guilty to second offense drunken driving in 1996 and was given a two-year suspended sentence, court records show. Krier was accused of two counts of assault in January 1997. He pleaded guilty to one count in a plea deal and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, online records show. Krier also pleaded guilty to assault on a peace officer in March 2000 and was given credit for 91 days he spent in jail. A second assault on a peace officer in connection with the Dec. 8, 1999 incident was dismissed, court records show.
Krier has a prior criminal record in nearby Wapello County, though nothing in recent years, online court records indicated.
Jessica Lown, a spokeswoman with the Iowa Department of Public Safety, said she did not immediately have any information on whether Krier legally owned the weapons he possessed.
Ron Waechter, 59, lives about a quarter-mile from Krier. He said he got along with Krier but found him “a little bit weird once in a while.” Asked how so, Waechter only said Krier was a “little odd.”
Waechter said Krier’s parents lived in the home until a few weeks ago, but they had health issues and were moved to a nursing home. He was not aware of Jeff Krier ever having been married or having any children. Waechter also did not believe Krier had a job, saying he had been caring for his parents.
Krier’s parents declined to comment through an employee of the Oskaloosa nursing home where they live. An aunt also declined to comment.
“That doesn’t happen … around a town like this”
Marlow said the community is safe. “At this time, the situation is secure,” he said. Still, the shooting has shaken members of the community.
“It kind of startled me because that doesn’t happen … around a town like this,” said Brenda Workman, 52, who works in the Country and More store in Sigourney.
Keokuk County has just 10,500 residents. Sigourney has about 2,000 residents and is the quintessential small town with a town square surrounded by businesses and the county courthouse sitting in the middle.
Gary Kruse, 53, said he saw law enforcement vehicles from several communities whiz past his store, Sigourney TV and Appliance, around lunchtime. “I’ve had this store 21 years, and I’ve never heard of a law enforcement officer getting shot,” he said.
The last Iowa peace officer to be shot and killed in the line of duty was Daniel M. McPherren Sr. of the Newton Police Department on Sept. 13, 1985, according to the Iowa Department of Public Safety website.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad issued the following statement in reaction today’s:
“Unfortunately, today again served as a painful reminder of the dangers faced by our brave men and women in law enforcement. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ family and friends, and all those affected by one man’s senseless act of violence today.”
The Gazette’s Zack Kucharski and John McGlothlen contributed to this story.
Watch the press conference
Photos by Brian Ray