ROLLA, Mo. – The gunman who broke onto a Missouri Army post Thursday and later fired on police during an interstate highway shootout was not targeting the military installation, officials said Friday.
Fort Leonard Wood commander Col. Charles Williams said that 31-year-old Cody Willcoxson got lost amid Interstate 44 highway construction before turning into the fort. St. Robert Police Chief Curtis Curenton — one of at least four officers whom Willcoxson reportedly tried to shoot during a 40-mile chase that exceeded speeds of 120 miles per hour — offered a similar account.
"He did not really want to go on the base," Curenton said. "He just took a wrong turn."
Willcoxson, a 31-year-old ex-convict from southwest Missouri, faces multiple felony charges in two Missouri counties of assaulting an officer, resisting arrest and armed criminal action. More charges are likely, said Phelps County prosecutor John Beger, including methamphetamine possession.
Willcoxson remained in jail Friday afternoon on a $1 million cash-only bond. No lawyer was listed in online court records. He suffered minor cuts, likely from broken glass when he shot out his car windows, but was not wounded. No one else was hurt.
Further investigation by the state Highway Patrol showed that Willcoxson fired more than 80 rounds at pursuing officers, reloading an AK-47 assault rifle as he drove. Officers recovered several other firearms when Willcoxson was arrested four hours after he was denied entry at Fort Leonard Wood due to concerns over his identification, said Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Crain. The guns were believed to be stolen.
Willcoxson drove through a security gate when he was questioned by military guards. Local law enforcement then took up the pursuit along heavily travelled I-44.
Officers put "stop sticks" on the road and punctured a tire before Willcoxson reached Rolla, home to Missouri University of Science and Technology. Police said he was soon forced to ditch the vehicle just before 9 a.m. near the 7,200-student college, where spring classes ended last week. He discarded the assault rifle outside McNutt Hall, which houses the school's Department of Mining and Nuclear Engineering, and fled on foot.
Campus police issued an alert telling those on campus to remain indoors and everyone else to stay away. The campus remained locked down until nearly 2 p.m., almost an hour after Willcoxson was arrested.
Willcoxson is accused of then breaking into a nearby home and driving away in the homeowner's Ford Taurus after demanding the keys. He was caught on a county road near Edgar Springs, south of Rolla, and did not resist arrest, authorities said.
Much of Rolla was shut down while the manhunt unfolded, including the main highway into town as well as local public schools.
Willcoxson was released from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections in 2008 after serving about 3½ years for burglary, escaping from jail and other felonies.
He was among nine inmates who attacked a jailer and fled on foot from the Delaware County Jail in Oklahoma a decade ago. He had escaped at least one other time previously, and authorities suspected him of masterminding the jail break. Willcoxson remained at large for nearly three years before he was arrested in Texas in 2003.