GASCONADE COUNTY, Mo. – The man accused of killing one Hermann, Missouri, police officer and wounding another in a double shooting was arraigned Wednesday morning and entered a not guilty plea.
Kenneth Simpson appeared in court via video conference and is being represented by a public defender.
The Gasconade County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged Simpson with one count of first-degree murder, first-degree assault – special victim, unlawful possession of a firearm, and two counts of armed criminal action.
A probable cause statement issued by the Missouri State Highway Patrol details the fatal encounter between Simpson and Officer Adam Sullentrup and Detective Sgt. Mason Griffith.
The shooting itself happened just after 9:05 p.m. on Sunday, March 12, at the Casey’s General Store on Market Street in Hermann.
Griffith and Sullentrup were called to the store because of an irate customer. When they arrived, they found Simpson in the back of the store and believed he had active warrants out for his arrest.
Griffith called Simpson “Kenny,” but Simpson appeared to ignore him. The officers asked Simpson for identification, but he claimed not to have his ID.
Investigators claim Simpson repeatedly denied his identity and initially said his name was “Justin” before saying it was “Kevin” several minutes later.
Griffith and Sullentrup told Simpson who they thought he was and why they were there. Simpson allegedly grew agitated and began pacing in the back of the store. Griffith asked Simpson if state police came and ran a fingerprint scan, would it confirm his identity. Simpson again said his name was “Kevin.”
Sullentrup went to his patrol vehicle and got a cellphone with Simpson’s photo. Sullentrup came back into the store and held the phone up to Simpson’s face. Police claim Simpson continued to deny his identity.
Griffith took out his handcuffs and both officers told Simpson he was under arrest. Simpson backed away from the officers, turned, and then pulled a handgun from his right side.
The probable cause statement says Simpson fired at the officers several times, striking both Griffith and Sullentrup. Griffith managed to return fire as Simpson ran from the store.
Griffith was rushed to Hermann Area District Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 10:55 p.m. Griffith was 34. Sullentrup, 31, was taken to a St. Louis hospital in critical condition. The BackStoppers organization said it will be helping both families.
Just after midnight Monday, law enforcement surrounded a home on East 11th and Market streets. The SWAT Team and officers from several different police departments attempted to negotiate a peaceful surrender with Simpson throughout the morning and early afternoon. Simpson left the residence just before 1:50 p.m. and was taken into custody.
State police interviewed Simpson at the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office in Steelville. According to the probable cause statement, Simpson admitted he’d been on the run because of the arrest warrants. He went on to say that when he saw Griffith and Sullentrup at the Casey’s, he’d planned to commit “suicide by cop.” When Griffith and Sullentrup tried to arrest him, Simpson told investigators he tried to give them a chance to shoot him, but his reaction became a fight-or-flight situation. Simpson went on to say he did not intend to kill anyone but himself.