(CNN) — A manhunt was underway for a motorist charged with killing a small-town Missouri police officer during a routine traffic stop over the weekend, police said Monday.
Ian James McCarthy, 39, of Clinton, Missouri, was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action, both felonies, the Henry County, Missouri Prosecutor’s Office said Monday.
Gary Michael, 37, who had been with the Clinton, Missouri, Police Department for less than a year, pulled over a vehicle for a suspected registration violation Sunday night, according to Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
As Michael exited his vehicle in downtown Clinton, the alleged shooter also got out of his car and fired once at the officer before fleeing the scene and crashing his vehicle into an embankment about four blocks away, Lowe said.
Michael returned fire, but it’s not clear if he hit the suspect, who fled on foot after the crash, the sergeant said. Before shots were fired, Michael managed to give a description of a dark SUV with Missouri plates, which is registered to McCarthy, according to a probable cause statement.
Michael was later pronounced dead at a local hospital, police said.
Considered armed and dangerous
McCarthy is considered armed and dangerous. Police set up several checkpoints around the city, local media reported.
Authorities initially named McCarthy as a person of interest, then later labeled him a suspect before prosecutors announced the charges.
Police have searched McCarthy’s home and the surrounding area, Lowe said.
The Clinton Police Department has no body camera policy, but police were working Monday morning to determine if there was dashcam video from Michael’s car or surveillance video from nearby businesses, Lowe said.
Before the shooting, surveillance from a convenience store showed the driver of a Dodge Nitro, later identified by a witness as McCarthy, pull into the parking lot and enter the store, the probable cause statement said. The driver purchased cigar wrappers and spoke to the witness.
A second surveillance video captured the Dodge leaving the convenience store before a Clinton police SUV activated its lights behind the Dodge in the area of the fatal shooting, according to the statement of probable cause.
The shooting unfolded in downtown Clinton, near several government buildings, including the Henry County courthouse, library and sheriff’s office. Residents left flowers, stuffed animals and balloons in a makeshift memorial.
The town of 8,800 is about 75 miles southeast of Kansas City.
‘He was our light’
Michael had a wife and stepchildren, according to CNN affiliate WDAF.
“It’s a tragedy, obviously, for his family. It’s a tragedy for Clinton Police Department, but it’s a tragedy for this community,” Lowe told the station. “He was doing his job, you know, he was there protecting and serving and that’s what we’re called to do, and he did it with heroic fashion.”
The officer’s brother, Chris Michael told CNN affiliate KSHB: “Even though we’ve had a tremendous amount of tears today, little bit of anger, we’ve had some laughs too because you know, he was our light and just had a great heart about him.”
“And so when you start going through pictures and other people who maybe post things about him, that you can’t help but smile and be proud of him.”
Flags flew half-staff in town to honor Michael.
Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri issued a statement: “Our law enforcement personnel put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, not knowing what danger they may face or whether they will make it home. We will always be grateful for their bravery, their selflessness, and their sacrifice. Our prayers are with Officer Michael’s family, and the Clinton Police Department.”