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Suicide by Cop

On April 1, 1977, at 1:46 p.m., Trooper Billie M. Hunt was parked at an on-ramp near Beaver. He observed a passing motorist and he distinctly saw the driver give a friendly wave. Trooper Hunt returned the gesture and thought nothing more of the incident. Within a few seconds, dispatch broadcast an armed robbery which had just occurred at an Amoco service station in Beaver. One hundred fourteen dollars had been taken at gunpoint. Once the suspect vehicle description was broadcast, Trooper Hunt realized that the man who had waived at him had just committed the robbery.

Trooper Hunt pursued and stopped the vehicle within a few miles on an unfinished section of I-15. The male occupant exited the vehicle with a cocked .357 magnum revolver in his right hand. Trooper Hunt exited his vehicle with a Remington 870, 12 gauge shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot.

Trooper Hunt ordered the suspect to drop the weapon. The suspect continued to walk toward Trooper Hunt and refused to drop the gun. Trooper Hunt retreated to the rear of his patrol car and again ordered the suspect to stop and drop his weapon. The suspect did neither. When Trooper Hunt ordered the suspect to stop and drop his weapon a third time, the suspect had closed the distance to approximately 10 feet.

The suspect then began to raise the barrel of the cocked revolver. Trooper Hunt knew that the suspect had the ability and opportunity to do great bodily harm. He also knew that his life was in jeopardy. All three elements were present to justify deadly force. Trooper Hunt fired one round, striking the suspect in the chest. The man died instantly. The shooting was later ruled justifiable.

The suspect was later identified at Gilbert Frank Stevens, 49, of Estherville, Iowa. He had been missing for a week from Iowa and was wanted for embezzlement. It appears that he had used Trooper Hunt to end his life. Police often call such actions “suicide by cop.