Kentucky State Police Trooper Murdered

 In Domestic

Sunday night,  Kentucky State Police Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder stopped a vehicle containing the driver, Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks, 2 small children in the back seat, and 2 women passengers.  As the trooper ran Shanks’ driver’s license through the computer, he learned that it was suspended.

 kentucky state police trooper

Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder (left) was shot by Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks (right) -photos from KSP, and jail photo

Minor violation

None of the people in the vehicle had a driver’s license,  so the trooper was planning to find someone to come and take the people to a hotel for the evening, so that he wouldn’t have to take anyone to jail. He radioed that fact to dispatch along with a request for an additional trooper. It was a “minor violation.”

The driver abruptly fled the scene, and was chased by the Trooper for about 9 miles. At around 10:50 p.m. the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle. The Trooper nudged up against the rear driver side of the suspect vehicle. The driver leaned out of the car and fired several shots into the officer’s vehicle and the trooper. Nobody was outside the vehicles during the incident, according to authorities.


A massive manhunt ensued during the night. Before 7 a.m. this morning the suspect was located about a mile from the interstate in a wooded area. Johnson-Shanks refused to put down his weapon, drew it, and was shot by Kentucky State Patrol. He was arrested as  troopers awaited EMS at the scene, but later died at the hospital.

Johnson-Shanks is from Florissant, Missouri.

One person in the vehicle was arrested for a felony, no others were charged. The other passenger and minors’ names have not been released.

The victim

According to the Kentucky State Police, Trooper Ponder was a decorated U.S. Navy veteran who worked with Navy SEALs, though he was not one himself.

Trooper Ponder, 31, succumbed to his injuries at a Princeton, Kentucky hospital. He had only been a trooper since January of 2015.

Several agencies are participating in the investigation.

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