Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Trooper Chris Horniak Shot On I-95

My friend Chris is a state trooper. Monday morning he pulled over a car and was shot by a wanted Virgia man.

I stated to post this Monday night, but didn't as I whated for more details. Then last night as I was working on it a co-worker deleted my work. So today I'll post the story from the Fayetteville Observer-Times.

Fayetteville Online
The Fayetteville (NC) Observer

State trooper shot

By Greg Barnes and Paul Woolverton

Law enforcement officers close a section of Interstate 95 after a state trooper was shot Monday near the N.C. 24 interchange. This view is looking south from the N.C. 24 bridge.

Trooper J.C. Horniak didn’t know Marvin Bell Johnson Jr. was a convicted murderer wanted by police in Richmond, Va., when he pulled him over Monday on Interstate 95.

Investigators say it was supposed to have been a routine traffic stop on the southbound side of I-95 near N.C. 24; a license plate falling off a beat-up green Oldsmobile had caught Horniak’s attention.

Seconds later, at 10:14 a.m., Horniak clung to his radio and spoke an urgent message: “Signal 25!”

Translation: “I need help!”

Investigators say Horniak, a N.C. Highway Patrol trooper since January 2000, had been shot three or four times.

Horniak, 30, remained in critical but stable condition Monday night at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Investigators said he had been shot in the stomach, shoulder and left leg. They said it wasn’t clear whether a bullet penetrated the armored vest Horniak wore, or whether it slipped between two armored plates.

Investigators said Johnson, 40, is a Richmond resident with a long criminal record that includes homicide in 1987. He has been charged with the attempted murder of Horniak. Bail was set at $1 million.

Investigators said a woman who was with him, Nichelle Steele, 21, of South Carolina, was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Trooper’s account

Trooper R.S. Kidd, among the first to reach Horniak after the shooting, gave this account of what happened:

Horniak walked to the passenger side of the car Johnson was driving and asked for his license and registration. Johnson told him his license was in the trunk.

Horniak told him to get out and retrieve it. Both walked toward the back of the car, Johnson on the driver said, Horniak on the passenger side.

When they neared the trunk, Johnson opened fire.

“He just surprised Chris,’’ Kidd said. “He got the drop on him is what he did.”

While Johnson continued shooting, Kidd said, Horniak worked his way behind the Oldsmobile and back to his patrol car, where he radioed for help. Kidd got there within minutes.

“He was lying on the ground right by his door,” Kidd said. “He was conscious. He was talking to us. He was answering our questions.”

Horniak had never gotten Johnson’s name, Kidd said, but he was able to give a description of him and the car. Horniak asked for the ambulance.

“It seemed like hours” before it arrived, Kidd said.

Lynne Barnard said she was driving from Virginia to Florida when she passed Horniak just as medical workers arrived and traffic slowed abruptly. Horniak was lying beside the car.

“You could see the blood on his chest and on his face,” she said. She saw a lawman kneeling by Horniak.

“It was pretty scary,” she said. “There were just police from everywhere — every roadway, every police function. They just converged very quickly.”

When the “Signal 25” went out, a trooper on the fourth floor of the Cumberland County Courthouse raced for the door. Police cars downtown turned on their lights and sirens and sped toward the interstate. The sheriff’s Special Response Team suited up, said Debbie Tanna, spokeswoman for the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

A police officer from Belmont, a small town west of Charlotte, was among the first to arrive. He was close by because he is training at the N.C. Justice Academy in Sampson County, Kidd said.

Several troopers arrived within a few minutes and started giving Horniak first aid, applying pressure and gauze to his bullet wounds, Kidd said.

About the same time, investigators said, people in at least two cars who saw the shooting called 911 and tailed Johnson about three miles to a Super 8 Motel at the Cedar Creek exit.

Johnson had parked the Oldsmobile toward the back of the motel, and Steele got them a room in her name, investigators said.

The sheriff’s Special Response Team arrived close behind them, found the car and checked the motel’s registry, Tanna said. Motel employees told them which room Johnson was in, and Steele was arrested in the parking lot, Tanna said.

The Special Response Team went to the second floor, and a deputy knocked on a door. When Johnson answered, Tanna said, the deputies grabbed his wrist, pulled him out of the room, pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him.

“This suspect opened the door like there was nothing wrong,” Tanna said. “They never even entered the room. They just pulled him out of the door and took him down.”

It was 34 minutes after the shooting, said Lt. Everett Clendenin, a Highway Patrol spokesman.
At hospital

Kidd said he didn’t see Horniak again until about 3:30 p.m. at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Horniak had been through surgery. His family was gathered. His parents visited him first.

Then Kidd went into the room with Horniak’s sister.

“I held his hand while I was there and spoke to him,’’ he said. “I told him the suspect had been arrested within about 25 to 30 minutes of the shooting. And I told him why the suspect said he shot him, which was basically he was wanted for probation violations. He didn’t want to go back to jail.”

There was a tube down Horniak’s throat. “He couldn’t talk. He didn’t have his eyes open,” Kidd said. But Horniak looked strong, Kidd said, and he could listen.

“At one point, he smiled. He smiled at me,” Kidd said.

State trooper shot

Monday evening, Johnson and Steele appeared before a magistrate and talked sparingly. Johnson nodded at each statement, and neither had questions.

Johnson, whose face was scraped and bruised, said he is unemployed, lives alone in Virginia and was trying to move to South Carolina.

Steele’s mother, Dorothy Steele, and her sister, Erica Steele, said they don’t know Johnson. They described Nichelle Steele as a typical 21-year-old who works every day but doesn’t hold a job long. She worked at the Piggly Wiggly in Darlington, S.C., for the past three months, they said.

They said they believe Steele was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Erica Steele said her sister called her from jail and was hysterical.

A Web site for the Richmond Police Department lists a Marvin Bell Johnson Jr. as one of its most-wanted fugitives. It says he is wanted on charges of felony assault, two counts of assault and battery and breaking and entering.

A spokesman for Richmond police would not release information, saying the department had not yet established whether the Johnson it seeks is the same man arrested in Cumberland County. Pictures from both law agencies appear to match.

Sheriff Moose Butler said Johnson had been convicted of murder and was wanted in Richmond on a parole violation.

Reports from the Richmond Times-Dispatch say Johnson was convicted in 1987 of murdering a man in a dispute over a broken rear window of a Cadillac. Johnson was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Information on when he was paroled was not available.

In 1995, Johnson was again charged with murder, but the charges were dropped when police couldn’t locate a witness. Johnson, who had alleged self-defense, pleaded guilty to failing to appear for a preliminary hearing and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Trooper Joel Siles said the gun used to shoot Horniak was a .45-caliber pistol. Investigators said the gun had not been found.

Lt. Clendenin said the bullet-resistant vest that Horniak wore was made by Second Chance Body Armor Inc., a company that is being sued by several states, police departments and the U.S. government. The company has filed for bankruptcy protection.
Video from Monday afternoon's press conference
High bandwidth | Modem

The company is accused of knowingly distributing vests that contain Zylon, a material that weakens when exposed to heat, light or humidity.

In September, the makers of Zylon — Toyobo Co. Ltd. and Toyobo of America Inc. — settled a class-action lawsuit for $29 million.

The Highway Patrol and other law enforcement agencies across North Carolina are in the process of replacing those vests, said Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General’s Office.

Clendenin said he didn’t know whether Horniak’s vest had been replaced, or whether it was the type involved in the lawsuit.
I-95 slowed

As police collected evidence along I-95, northbound traffic slowed and the southbound lanes nearly halted.

Some drivers stuck cameras out their windows to take pictures.

At one point the police stopped southbound traffic. It reopened to slow progress about 12:30 p.m.

Troopers and deputies combed the ground for spent shell casings and the pistol.

“We had information that it may have been thrown out of the car,” Sheriff Butler said. “We haven’t been able to locate it.”

A Highway Patrol helicopter circled and took photos. It landed for a short while on the southbound lanes, prompting northbound drivers to stop and stare.

Staff writers Julia Oliver and Melissa Willett contributed to this story.
Staff writer Greg Barnes can be reached at or 486-3525.

Our thoughts and prayers go to Chris and and his family.

posted by David at 6:40 PM :: Permalink ::

Comments on "Trooper Chris Horniak Shot On I-95"


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Anonymous Anonymous said ... (19 July, 2008 16:50) : 

man i cant believe he did that well thanks for gettin him...


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