Police shoot man north of Fennville after armed carjackings
Update, Thursday, June 20, 2019: William Thomas Travis was arraigned Thursday, June 20, in 57th District Court on numerous felony charges including home invasion, attempted murder, felonious assault and carjacking. He is currently being held at the Allegan County jail with approximately $650,000 in bonds.
The man who was shot by police north of Fennville after a violent string of carjackings and a shootout with a victim Saturday, June 15, and Sunday, June 16, is awaiting arraignment on a number of felonies.
According to the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office, the 22-year-old Kalamazoo resident was still hospitalized as of Tuesday, June 18, with gunshot wounds received from to sheriff’s deputies as he tried get back into a home where he’d just stolen the keys to a car at gunpoint.
Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker said the incident began in Martin with the report of a stolen car about 7:15 p.m. Saturday.
“As a result of that investigation, our deputy was able to develop a suspect and started looking for him and the stolen auto,” Baker said.
Officers found the man and the car about 4 a.m. on Sunday and pursued him when he tried to escape.
Baker said the pursuit was terminated by the officers at that point because they knew who the suspect was and he’d committed only the crime of driving away a car at that point.
Officers kept following the man, but not aggressively and came upon the stolen car abandoned in Hopkins.
Officers later learned he’d stolen a Corvette and an AR-15 rifle and crashed the Corvette into a pole southeast of Hopkins about 5:30 a.m.
The man apparently then headed toward Allegan, where he crashed the Corvette again about 7:24 a.m. on M-40/89 north of Allegan near the Kalamazoo River.
Baker said the man used the stolen rifle to carjack a vehicle from a passing person and took their car.
The man apparently headed toward Fennville and about 8:30 a.m. was reported to have broken into a home in the 5400 block of 130th Avenue north of Fennville and used the AR-15 to threaten the homeowners and steal their truck, which he crashed after driving about a mile.
He then broke into a home and stole a pistol, then tried to steal a car from the neighboring homeowner in the 2900 block of 56th Street.
Baker said, “While attempting that, he shoots at the homeowner and the homeowner engages in a shootout with him.”
No one was injured, though bullets reportedly almost hit someone else in the home. Baker said the suspect was using the stolen pistol at this point, not the AR-15.
The man stole that homeowner’s van but only made it a little way to the 5600 block of 128th Avenue before he drove into a ditch.
He went into another nearby house and pointed a gun at the homeowners.
“He holds the homeowners at gunpoint while he gets the keys and goes out to their vehicle but can’t start it,” Baker said. “That’s when the deputies arrive and confront him.”
Baker said the deputies shot the man as he tried to get back into the house he’d just stolen the keys from and that he was armed at the time.
The Michigan State Police will investigate the shooting by police officers, Baker said, so he didn’t have more specific information on what had happened.
“That’ll be part of the MSP investigation, so we aren’t talking to our guys about that,” he said.
The sheriff said there had also been reports the suspect had fired at homes in the area.
The deputies involved are on leave.
“Officers involved are on administration leave until the prosecutor has reviewed the case done by the MSP and we’ve had a chance to have them cleared through our employee assistance program for counseling,” Baker said.
The officers are offered counseling after an incident like this and then must speak to a counselor before they can return to duty.
Baker said the decision to stop pursuing the suspect early in the incident was still correct.
“We think that was a good decision at the time. (Unlawful driving away an automobile)s are property crimes.
“Knowing who our suspect was at that time, we felt it was a good decision for the safety of everyone involved and consistent with our pursuit policies.”
The crime spree that developed after was quite different from what police were dealing with at that time, he said.
“The incident really changed in the morning after he acquired a weapon and this became more violent,” Baker said.
The sheriff said that officers believe drug use may have been a factor in the incident and in how the suspect escalated it.
Baker said he expected the man to likely be arraigned Wednesday, June 19, (after press time) and that they’d make arrangements to send a magistrate to his hospital bed or do so by video if necessary.
Contact Dan Pepper at email@example.com or at (269) 673-5534.
Timeline of theft, break-ins, shootouts
7:15 p.m. Martin: Car reported stolen
• 4 a.m. suspect flees
• car abandoned in Hopkins
• steals Corvette, rifle,
• 5:30 a.m. crashes southeast of Hopkins
• 7:24 a.m. crashes north of Allegan, armed carjacking
• 8:30 a.m. armed break-in north of Fennville, 130th Ave., steals truck
• crashes down the road
• breaks into 56th Street home, steals pistol
• attempts to steal neighboring car; shootout with that homeowner; steals van
• crashes down the road
• breaks into home along 128th Ave.
• shot by deputies during attempt to steal car there