ARTICLE

New details released in shooting that killed deputy

Investigators work to gain access to a trailer on the farm of 53-year-old Jeff Krier Tuesday, April 5, 2011  where Keokuk County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Stein, 38, was shot and killed on Monday. Krier was also shot and killed in the incident by an Iowa State Patrol tactical team. (Brian Ray/ SourceMedia Group News)
Investigators work to gain access to a trailer on the farm of 53-year-old Jeff Krier Tuesday, April 5, 2011 where Keokuk County Sheriff's Deputy Eric Stein, 38, was shot and killed on Monday. Krier was also shot and killed in the incident by an Iowa State Patrol tactical team. (Brian Ray/ SourceMedia Group News)

Information released Monday about last week’s shooting in Keokuk County shows the suspect was a troubled man who put up an intense gunfight that resulted in the death of a sheriff’s deputy.

Results of the investigation also showed that slain deputy, Sgt. Eric Stein, and two colleagues with the Keokuk County Sheriff’s Office refused to let other officers approach them during the 40-minute shootout because they feared those responding officers would be killed.

After a nearly three-hour standoff following Stein’s death, the suspect, Jeffrey A. Krier, fought through bullet wounds and fired at least one shot before succumbing to the 23 entry wounds to his body.

In all, officers fired 115 rounds and Krier got off 49 in an incident that has rocked this southeast Iowa community. The 39-year-old Stein, who was buried Saturday, was the first Iowa law enforcement officer to be fatally shot in the line of duty since 1985.

At a news conference Monday afternoon in the Keokuk County Courthouse, officials laid out an extensive timeline for what led up to the shooting and what occurred at Krier’s residence the day of the incident. The Iowa Attorney General’s Office also released a report that found the use of deadly force on Krier was justified.

One large unanswered question is why Krier, a 53-year-old with a long history of mental illness, opened fire on officers.

“It’s just a terrible … situation,” said John Quinn, director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.

Krier’s most recent problems apparently started on Feb. 28, when family members sought to have him committed. They have said Krier battled bipolar disorder for three decades,

Krier spent six days in a Des Moines hospital, but a judge ultimately ruled against his commitment.

On the evening of Friday, April 1, Krier called the Keokuk County Hospital and asked to speak with a particular employee. When he was told that person was not available, he made threatening statements and indicated that “we” have weapons. The Sheriff’s Office was told of the call.

At 4:19 a.m. Sunday, Krier called the Sheriff’s Office and said his wife, “Melissa Gentry,” had been kidnapped and taken to Texas. A sheriff’s deputy spoke with Krier, and Krier eventually became agitated and incoherent. Authorities have found no evidence that a Melissa Gentry known to Krier exists, Quinn said.

At 5:35 a.m. Sunday, the Sheriff’s Office got a call from a resident, Mike Rankin, who said Krier had entered his locked home and woke him up to say he was looking for Gentry. Rankin had never met Krier.

Sunday evening, Terry Steinhart reported that his home a mile from Krier’s had been shot and his property damaged. A deputy found that 20 rounds were fired into the house and garage. Blue paint transferred on the damaged garage door, shell casings and rusty cans would eventually link Krier to that incident.

The following morning, Keokuk County Sheriff Jeff Shipley, Chief Deputy Casey Hinnah and Stein decided to make contact with Krier, who they thought may be having mental health issues. Shipley called Krier, who said he would meet with officers. At the end of the conversation, Krier said the officers needed to kill the person in the black “dually” truck and then hung up.

Further attempts to call Krier and, once at his home, get him to come out were unsuccessful. Stein said he saw Krier in the window, and seconds later Stein said Krier had a gun. The officers took cover in their vehicles, at which time Krier began to fire at the officers and disabled their vehicles.

The officers retreated to behind Stein’s Ford Explorer for cover. Stein, using an AR-15 rifle, exchanged gunfire with Krier for an undetermined amount of time. The officers were initially unsure if Krier was alive, dead or wounded, and then they heard him yelling something that they were not able to understand because Krier was inside and due to high winds.

At 11:42 a.m., Stein said over his radio that shots had been fired.

Officers from numerous agencies were en route, but Stein, Shipley and Hinnah decided they did not want them to drive up and get them because such a move could prove fatal to the responding units. Quinn said Krier’s home was on high ground with a clear view of the driveway. Eventually, 24 agencies would respond to the scene.

At 12:19 p.m., Stein told approaching officers to turn off their sirens, said he was low on ammunition and told them not to approach. Within three minutes of that call, Krier exited his residence.

The three officers said they thought they heard a door shutting, but they were unsure because of the wind. Hinnah was the first to see Krier, who had a long gun and was using Shipley’s Ford F-150 for cover.

Hinnah fired at Krier and Krier returned fire. The investigation found nine shotgun shell casings fired by Krier by the driver’s side door of the vehicle, about 15 yards from the officers. One round traveled through Stein’s SUV and hit Stein in the head, killing him instantly.

Shipley and Hinnah returned fire, and Krier stopped shooting and went back toward his home.

Shipley and Hinnah could see Stein was dead and decided to leave him and run to the arriving officers.

“It was a tough decision to leave Sgt. Stein, even though I knew he was deceased,” Shipley said. “But I also had a Deputy I had to get out of there too.”

While they were retreating, Krier shot at them and shouted something to the effect of “come back you sons-of-bitches,” according to investigators.

Four two-man teams from the Iowa State Patrol Tactical Unit were deployed around Krier’s home at about 1:10 p.m. They were told that if Krier left the home unarmed, he was to be taken into custody, according to the attorney general’s report. If he was armed, however, officers were told to use deadly force if necessary.

State Patrol negotiators and Krier’s brother tried to get Krier to surrender. Sam Krier, who was a at a neighboring property, reached his brother by cellphone three times and “pleaded with Jeffrey Krier to surrender,” but each time Jeff Krier ended the call, according to the attorney general’s report. After the third call, Jeff Krier would not answer.

At 3:30 p.m., one of the tactical teams saw Krier leave the home, load a rifle, chamber a round and prepare to fire. One of the officers fired one round from a rifle from 280 yards, striking Krier in the right arm and damaging Krier’s rifle.

Another team, seeing Krier exist with a gun and hearing the shot, also fired on Krier and advanced toward him. They advanced two more times, firing their weapons, before Krier died.

Krier did not go down after the first several times he was hit and continued to move, firing at least one round, according to the attorney general’s report.

The tactical team members fired 25 times, hitting Krier 23 times. Most of the wounds were in the torso from the front. The results of toxicology tests are pending.

The three officers from Keokuk County fired 90 rounds. Krier fired 49 rounds.

At the time of his death, Krier had a hand gun, shotgun and a rifle on him. Just inside the northeast door of his home was a large knife and hatchet. On his bed were seven long guns ready to be used, Quinn said.

SourceMedia Group previously reported Krier did not have a permit to carry a weapon, but a permit is not needed to own a shotgun or rifle. Quinn said Monday he was not sure if Krier legally owned the weapons found at his home.

While he was known as an avid hunter, officials were not aware of any additional weapons training, officials said Monday.

Quinn said it is not known what caused Krier to start behaving erratically April 1. Krier did not leave a note or provide any other indication what his intent was, he said.

Shipley said the officers went to Krier’s residence to “help him.” They couldn’t have known what was about to occur, he said.

“How do you deal with the unknown?” he said.

The three made all the right tactical decisions that day, he said. Quinn told reporters that officials were not going to discuss tactics.

Shipley praised Stein and Hinnah, calling their actions “nothing less than heroic.”“Not once did anybody panic, even though you can imagine what was racing through our heads,” he said.

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