• 55°

Oklahoma Police officer shoots, kills fleeing suspect

STILLWATER, Okla. – A police officer shot and killed a fleeing suspect wanted for questioning in an apartment fire that turned up the body of a dead man in this Oklahoma college town.

Shot to death by the officer was Ralph W. Willis, 42, as he fled on foot from a police pursuit mid-day Thursday, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation reported.

A spokesman for the bureau, Jessica Brown, said Willis made an aggressive gesture toward policemen involved in the chase when they cornered him in a backyard, and that one of the officers fired his weapon at the suspect.

Brown said an investigation is underway into the circumstances and other details of the shooting. She said findings will be turned over to the district attorney’s office to determine if it was justified. The officer who fired the fatal shots was not identified.

Authorities said witnesses at the scene of the apartment fire helped police identify Willis as the person who set it and may have been responsible for the death of the man found in the lower unit. Willis and his wife, Rachel, occupied the upper unit. The name of the dead man was not released, pending notification of relatives.

A citywide search for Ralph Willis resulted in police confronting him in a Walmart parking lot. Police said he ran from the officers when they tried to question him. The foot chase ended in a residential area a few blocks south of Walmart.

Bert Keiser said he observed the end of the chase from his home next door to the backyard where the suspect was shot dead.

“My bedroom is on the northwest corner, and I just heard yelling, and I looked out my bedroom window,” said Gelder. “There were cop cars and cops on foot running toward the neighbor’s back fence. They were standing there, and then I saw one of them shoot.”.

Oklahoma State University alerted students and faculty to the police search for Willis but none of the individuals involved appeared to be affiliated with the school, police said.

Michelle Charles is a reporter with the Stillwater, Okla., News Press.