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Fort Wayne Police officer ID'd in fatal shooting

Thursday, February 21, 2013 - 8:58 am

Fort Wayne Police have identified the officer involved in the fatal shooting of an armed robbery suspect Wednesday morning.

The police department Thursday morning identified the officer who fired the fatal shot as Officer Jeffery E. Burkholder Sr., who has been on the police force since September 1981, according to the department. His released personnel records indicate four vehicle accidents and two incidents of absent without leave, but no instances relating to the firing of his weapon.

Burkholder received a Meritorious Service Citation in 1990, according to the personnel record.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Allen County Coroner's Office identified the victim as 21-year-old Stephen O'Neal Wattley II, of Fort Wayne. Police have said an officer shot and killed Wattley after he ran into an apartment building and allegedly turned toward officers with a semi-automatic rifle.

The coroner's office confirmed that Wattley died of gunshot wounds, and his death has been ruled Allen County's fifth homicide of 2012, which means that his death was caused by the actions of another person.

At around 2:27 a.m., police were dispatched to the CVS pharmacy at 2802 E. State Blvd. in reference to an armed robbery investigation, according to FWPD spokesman John Chambers. Arriving officers saw an individual matching the description of the suspect who was running southbound from the business, he said.

Burkholder and another officer pursued the suspect into the apartment building in the 1900 block of Hobson Road.

Police Chief Rusty York said Wednesday morning that the two officers chased the suspect into the apartment building's lobby. The suspect turned, and officers saw that he was armed with a semi-automatic rifle. Burkholder shot him. “I don't believe any shots were fired at the officers,” York previously said.

York said investigators have verified that the rifle is real, not a lookalike-but-less- dangerous weapon. It has a pistol grip, so it was shorter than many similar rifles, he said.

Officer Raquel Foster, a spokeswoman for the FWPD, said Thursday morning that the pharmacy had sustained a cash loss during the robbery and that an officer/K-9 search team found cash and loose currency inside and outside the apartment complex where the chase ended, which is sometimes an indicator that a suspect is attempting to discard items while fleeing.

Burkholder and the other officer have been placed on a five-day administrative leave, as is typical in shootings by police. Indiana State Police will be conducting a parallel investigation to the Fort Wayne Police investigation, the chief said. That also is typical in cases of shootings by police.

Police said they have reviewed video surveillance records from the CVS store and verified that the robber and the dead man are the same person.

This incident remains under investigation by the FWPD, Allen County Prosecutor's Office, and the coroner's office.