KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - A Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officer was shot and killed while investigating a report of shots fired on the city's south side Monday night, the department announced Tuesday morning.
Eric Zapata was a 10-year veteran of the department. The 35-year-old was wearing body armor when he was shot in the chest and head, Chief Jeff Hadley said.
This is the department's first officer to be killed in the line of duty.
The suspect has been identified as 31-year-old Leonard "Danny" Statler of Kalamazoo. Hadley said Statler shot Officer Zapata and later died at the scene near the 1400 block of Hays Park Avenue, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot.
The department said Statler had exchanged gunfire with another officer before running in between homes in the area and then confronting Zapata.
- Officers respond to call of shots fired
- First officer encounters man on porch
- Man fires at officer; officer fires back
- Seconds later -- Officer Eric Zapata confronts gunman
- Officer Zapata shot in head and chest
- Gunman shoots self; found by officers
- Gunman identified as Danny Statler
KDPS' preliminary investigation found that officers were responding to the initial call of shots fired when they found Statler on the porch of a home, according to the news release. The officers asked the man if he had heard any gunshots in the area. Then Statler advanced toward the first officer, "brandished a handgun" and the two exchanged gunfire, the release stated.
Vanessa Garcia lives nearby. She said she had just put her daughter to bed when she heard a car speeding off.
"Then we just saw a whole bunch of police cars just start going and going," said Garcia, a 16-year-old interviewed with her aunt's permission.
"And then we just heard 11 gunshots," she said.
Garcia said she counted them. Gunshots aren't uncommon in her neighborhood, she said, but 11 shots stood out.
Leon Robinson said he knew Statler for 25 years. Robinson said the actions Statler is accused of don't sound like something the 31-year-old would ordinarily do.
"I don't know what drew him to do this today," Robinson said. "But this is nothing like him. I can tell you that. Nothing like him."
The department asked for prayers for the officer's family, loved ones and members of the department.
The Cuff and Ladder fund is collecting money for Zapata's family and funeral expenses. The public safety department is working with his family to see what they need.
Anyone interested in helping the cause can drop off any donations to Station 6, care of PSO Orfin, or mail them to P.O. Box 325, Schoolcraft, Mich. 49087, in care of the PSO Zapata Memorial Fund.
You may also drop off donations for the PSO Zapata Memorial Fund at any branch of the Lake Michigan Credit Union.
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