ST. LOUIS – A suspect in a police officer's shooting who was shot and killed in southern Illinois after a search of more than a week managed to evade capture by hiding in a sparsely populated national forest where he had once lived, a county sheriff said Monday.
Dracy "Clint" Pendleton, 34, of Bellflower, Illinois, died in a shootout early Sunday at an abandoned house 250 miles away in the Shawnee National Forest, according to the Illinois State Police. An FBI agent was wounded but the agency said Monday he was expected to survive.
Pope County Sheriff Jerry Suits said that it took his deputies 11 days to locate Pendleton when he was charged in a 2012 domestic dispute. Online court records indicate that Pendleton was wanted on an arrest warrant for felony stalking and aggravated assault while discharging a firearm but pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of aggravated assault on a handicapped person or a victim over 60. He served 30 days in jail.
"It was a frightening situation," Suit said, describing precautions during the recent manhunt that included rerouting school bus routes to avoid areas where Pendleton was believed to be hiding. "We're glad it's over."
Authorities had closed off the Lusk Creek Wilderness Area in the national forest since May 9 when a stolen pickup truck that they believed Pendleton was using was found. The 6,293-acre area will remain closed through Thursday, the U.S. Forest Service said.
State police said Pendleton was seen just after midnight Saturday running into woods near a church cemetery, carrying a rifle and wearing a bandolier shoulder belt that holds bullet cartridges. A church deacon on Friday reported a break-in and that money and food were missing, and bloody bandages were found in a trash can, the sheriff said. Suits said that he was told Pendleton had been shot in the neck the previous week.
State Police Col. Tad Williams said that Pendleton opened fire on officers as they approached the home in Eddyville, which is 30 miles north of the Kentucky border.
He was found by a police robot inside the home around 5 a.m., after a firefight with state police, FBI officers and local sheriff's deputies. Authorities did not say whether Pendleton was killed by police or if he took his own life.
Suits estimated that 200 law enforcement officers were involved in the operation, including federal marshals and Forest Service agents.
The name and condition of the wounded federal agent was not immediately disclosed. FBI spokesman Brad Ware said Monday the agent was expected to survive.
Authorities had been searching for Pendleton since the May 7 shooting of a police officer in Mahomet, Illinois. The incident also sparked a fatal collision when a trooper pursuing Pendleton struck and killed a 26-year-old woman in Decatur, some 45 miles to the southwest.
Pendleton was initially charged with attempted murder in the shooting of the officer, who was treated and released from a hospital the following morning. The charge was later amended to aggravated battery with a firearm.
Pendleton's father told The Associated Press on Monday that his son — the father of two boys, ages 1 and 2 — had recently separated from his wife and was staying with a friend 15 mile away in Mahomet.
The elder Pendleton, who shares the same name with his son, said the May 7 police shooting happened after an officer with whom the younger Pendleton "had a history" went to his home after a traffic stop involving a different officer. That incident involved a broken tail light for which a warning was given, although Dracy Pendleton reportedly "got agitated and sped away," his father said.
"We don't know what exactly transpired," he said. "Something escalated it. That's when everything broke loose."
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