“This was pretty devastating,” he said.
Walker Police Officer Trevor Slot was killed Thursday when he was run over by two bank robbery suspects in a sport utility vehicle. Law enforcement officers believe Slot was run over deliberately shortly after 11 a.m. as he attempted to place stop sticks, designed to slow down or stop the getaway vehicle, at the Marne/Eighth Avenue exit ramp off Interstate 96 in Tallmadge Township.
A short time later, the two bank robbery suspects were shot to death after they crashed their blue Oldsmobile Bravada, got out of the SUV and began exchanging gunfire with law enforcement officers — including two Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department deputies.
The incident began to unfold just after 10 a.m. when two men attempted to rob the ChoiceOne Bank in Ravenna at gunpoint. Muskegon County Sheriff Dean Roesler said the suspects were “heavily armed” and held bank employees hostage while they took cash from the bank’s vault and teller drawers.
A customer in his car outside the bank saw what was happening inside and called 911, Sheriff Roesler said.
Muskegon County Prosecutor Tony Tague told WZZM-TV the bank robbery suspects may have been from the Grand Rapids or Wyoming areas, and may have been wanted for other robberies in the area. The FBI would not comment on the identity of the suspects.
After the bank heist, police soon located the suspects’ vehicle, then chased the SUV south from Ravenna into Ottawa County at high speeds, entering Interstate 96 at 68th Avenue in Coopersville. Shots were fired at various points during the chase between police and the suspects, police said.
Rosema said his officers became involved after Ottawa County Central Dispatch was alerted that the suspects were headed toward Coopersville.
Here’s what Rosema said transpired:
A sheriff’s deputy began to pursue the suspects’ vehicle on 56th Avenue in Coopersville. A second deputy became involved as the suspects drove at a high rate of speed on Randall Street and headed toward I-96. Both Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department vehicles were hit by bullets.
“It is obvious that these two suspects were intending to hurt people,” Rosema said. “They put multiple people at risk.”
Three more deputies joined the chase on I-96.
On I-96, the chase first headed east toward Grand Rapids, then the SUV cut west, then east again before turning back onto the westbound lanes, police said.
The suspects then lost control of their SUV and ran off the roadway, between the exit ramp and the westbound lanes of the I-96. They exited the vehicle and opened fire on officers. Officers returned fire, and shot and killed both suspects, police said.
Rosema said two of his deputies, three Michigan State Police troopers and a Muskegon County Sheriff’s Department officer were involved in the exchange of gunfire that resulted in the death of the suspects. Those officers are on paid administrative leave — a normal procedure when firing of weapons is involved, Rosema said.
“This will be a major investigation,” the sheriff said.
No officers were injured from gun fire, police said.
Lt. David Roesler of the Michigan State Police said that his department will be interviewing police officers and witnesses.
“We don’t rush anything,” he said. “This will take time.”
Witnesses are asked to call the Michigan State Police Rockford post at 616-866-4411.
Roesler said three state police vehicles took significant hits from gunfire.
“It could have been worse,” Roesler said during a press conference held at Coopersville City Hall on Thursday afternoon.
Westbound I-96 between Marne and the county line was closed for more than seven hours after the incident, and reopened about 6:30 p.m., Roesler said.
Walker Police Chief Catherine Garcia-Lindstrom said Slot is the first Walker police officer ever killed in the line of duty.
The 41-year-old Slot was a father of two young daughters and a T-ball coach known for his ever-present grin. He worked for the Walker Police Department for nine years after he served in Lowell for five years.
Rosema said the Ravenna bank robbery attempt shows that major crime can happen anywhere.
“It is a tragedy whenever you lose a police officer,” he said. “Our sympathies go out to the Walker Police Department and officer Slot’s family.”
— By Len Painter and Mark Brooky. WZZM-TV and The Associated Press contributed to this report.