State’s Attorney: Officer-involved shooting in Geneseo justified

The shooting of a Geneseo man by a task force officer with the U.S. Marshals Service during a more than 90-minute standoff in September has been deemed justified.

KWQC reports that former Henry County State’s Attorney Matthew Schutte wrote in a seven-page memo on November 25th that the shooting of 30 year old Jeffery Blunk was “necessary and lawful” based on his review of the facts and applicable law.

Catherine Runty, the current state’s attorney, released the memo to TV6 Investigates on December 28th. She also identified the officer, William Bohm, who also is a deputy with the Peoria County Sheriff’s Office, that fired the fatal shot. KWQC reports that the incident involving Blunk began around 4 a.m. September 22nd, according to police and the state’s attorney’s office.

According to Schutte’s memo:

Two Henry County deputies saw a white Dodge Ram pickup truck driving eastbound on I-80 near the Atkinson, Illinois exit. The deputies saw the truck cross the fog line several times, which was captured on squad car video.

They also noted the truck had a defective exhaust system, and the registration on the vehicle expired in April. Further, the vehicle description that returned for the registration was a red Dodge truck. The truck left the interstate, and one of the deputies saw the driver, later identified as Blunk, made what could be characterized as furtive movements as he leaned down toward the passenger-side floorboard.

Deputies initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle on South State Street in Atkinson. The truck initially pulled over but took off and sped away as deputies approached it. The deputies chased the truck, observing Blunk commit multiple traffic violations. At some point, Blunk stopped the truck abruptly, and the squad car was unable to stop quickly enough to avoid striking the rear of the truck, and the push bar of the squad car became lodged under the rear bumper of the truck.

Blunk then drove the truck forward, pulling the squad car. The truck ultimately stopped on Route 6 at Anna Street. One of the deputies approached the truck and, as he neared the driver’s door, backed away and yelled “gun” several times. Blunk and a woman passenger ran northbound on Anna Street. Deputies saw Blunk carrying a short-barreled shotgun with white-colored grips. As he ran, Blunk turned and fired the shotgun behind him towards the deputies. He refused to stop and drop the weapon when ordered to do so by the deputies. Blunk then ran into a home in the 300 block of West Henry Street. One of the deputies located the woman at the rear of the home. The deputy saw Blunk run westbound through the backyard of a neighboring home before losing sight of him on the south side of a home in the 400 block of West Williams Street.

Shortly after 7:41 a.m., deputies learned Blunk had gone into another home and forced the homeowner, a woman, to drive him to the Maple City Trailer Park in Geneseo. Deputies were assisted by the Illinois State Police and Geneseo Police Department in the search for Blunk. Around 9:29 a.m., another deputy was near the trailer park and learned from Geneseo Police Chief Casey Sisterholft that a white truck with a topper had just entered the trailer park.

Around 9:51 a.m., the deputy saw the same truck leaving the trailer park and drive northbound toward Route 6. The deputy pulled the truck over on Route 6 across Super Wash. As he approached the driver’s side door, the deputy noticed large pieces of cardboard lining the truck’s bed but saw that they were not lying flat on the bed but appeared raised as if something was under them.

The deputy talked to the driver of the truck, a man, as officers from Geneseo and state police arrived to assist. One of the officers lifted the cardboard in the truck’s bed and told the officers he saw a gun. The driver was then removed from the truck and taken away from the scene while officers established a perimeter around the vehicle as additional officers arrived.

Officers negotiated with Blunk for more than 90 minutes and attempted to provide him with water to persuade him to put down the shotgun. During the standoff, officers formulated various plans, including using the Henry County ERT and a Bearcat from Rock Island County.

During the standoff, Blunk broke both the passenger and driver’s side windows of the trunk topper. He eventually climbed out of the driver’s side window of the truck topper and entered the truck’s cab. He ignored officers’ repeated commands to put the weapon down and held it under his chin while he moved from the rear to the cab of the truck.

Multiple reports stated the truck was still running when Blunk climbed into the driver’s seat. When he reached up with his hand to shift the truck into gear, Bohm fired a single shot from his high-powered rifle, striking Blunk. Officers secured Blunk, but the gunshot wound was fatal, according to the memo.

In looking at the case, Schutte wrote there is “no question” that there was a substantial risk that Blunk would attempt to defeat his arrest by attempting to escape from law enforcement that day. He wrote that after a lengthy standoff with police, Blunk attempted to get behind the wheel of the running truck, and “it is undeniable that had he been able to do so, another chase would have ensued.”

“The fact that Blunk’s escape had to be defeated by the use of deadly force is also clear,” Schutte wrote. “Law enforcement negotiated with Blunk for over 90 minutes and said negotiation only ended when Blunk ended it by exiting the rear of the vehicle and entering the cab of the truck.” He wrote that law enforcement considered multiple other options to engage Blunk, including the use of an armored vehicle, but Blunk’s actions “changed the timeline and caused the need for swift and immediate action.”

“Efforts to disable the vehicle, while certainly a less deadly alternative, would also have been a less certain alternative and would have put not only law enforcement at greater risk but the public at large as well. To that point, unsuccessfully attempting to disable the vehicle would have given Blunk an unacceptable opportunity to safely flee into nearby homes and businesses, including a hotel located close to the scene of the standoff.”

Schutte wrote that at the time Blunk was finally apprehended, he had already committed or attempted to commit multiple forcible felonies, including attempted murder of a peace officer, aggravated discharge of a firearm, home invasion, and aggravated kidnapping. “He was continuously armed with his shotgun, had fired it on police offices, carried it on his person during the kidnapping, and held it to his own head during the standoff.”

Schutte wrote that law enforcement was aware of Blunk’s history, which included meth-related offenses and offenses, including multiple weapons and the possession of explosive devices. During the search and standoff, officers learned Blunk told multiple people that he would rather die than go back to prison and that he would either kill himself or force police to kill him, Schutte wrote. “Blunk’s desperation combined with the fact that he was armed and was known to possess explosives created a substantial risk that, in addition to the forcible felonies Blunk had already committed, Blunk posed a clear and present danger to endanger human life,” Schutte wrote in the memo.

(Photo by KWQC)

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