Kentucky State Trooper Shot Trying To Help Travelers

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades
Joseph Cameron Ponder and Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks.Joseph Cameron Ponder and Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks.

When Kentucky state trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder, 31, pulled over Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks of Florissant, Missouri, he was trying to help. But Johnson-Shanks, 25, allegedly shot Ponder.

Johnson-Shanks was later shot by police and died from his injuries, The Associated Press reported.

On Sept. 13, Ponder discovered Johnson-Shanks was driving with a suspended license, so he offered to help arrange overnight lodging for him and the passengers in the vehicle: two children and two adult women, one of whom was Johnson-Shanks' niece, Ambrea R.J. Shanks, 18.

Instead, Johnson-Shanks fled. Ponder pursued him, and when Johnson-Shanks’ vehicle stopped abruptly, Ponder's police cruiser rear-ended it.

"At that point, the suspect leaned out of the driver-side window and fired multiple rounds at the trooper's car, striking the hood, the windshield and striking our trooper,” state police spokesman Trooper Jay Thomas said, according to AP.

Police caught up with Johnson-Shanks on Sept. 14 and shot him after he refused to comply with orders to drop his gun, NBC News reported.

"I feel for his family," Thomas said. "But he was an adult. He made bad decisions and he continued to make bad decisions. He made that decision to shoot our trooper."

Ambrea Shanks was later charged with first-degree hindering prosecution or apprehension and has since been jailed.

Ponder was a Navy veteran who had been a state trooper for less than a year.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear said the shooting was a "tragic reminder of the risks that our law enforcement officers face every day just by putting on their uniform and doing their job."

"That he was killed in the line of duty makes his death memorable, but we must never forget the most significant part of Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder's story -- how he lived, his selfless service to others, and his willingness to give his life for that commitment," Beshear said in a statement, according to NBC News.

Sources: AP via YahooNBC News / Photo credit: Kentucky State Police via NBC News