A DeWitt Township officer is alive despite being shot in the face Thursday, police say, by a man who was on his way to kill his wife.
"I just heard these loud pops, one after another" says neighbor Misty Baatz."I heard people screaming and yelling, an officer said 'Officer down!"
Police say 47-year-old Nathan Oakes drove from Florida to DeWitt, arriving around 2:15 Thursday morning with one goal-- and one goal only-- in mind: to kill his estranged wife.
When officers interrupted that plan-- violence ensued.
"Our officers engaged in a gun battle with the suspect," says DeWitt City Police Chief Larry Jerue. "The DeWitt Township officer was struck in the face by one round from the suspect. It appears the suspect was shot by officers returning fire. He [Oakes] is now deceased."
Chief Jerue says the shot Oakes fired went through the officer's cheek, broke his jaw and exited through his neck. Oakes had three loaded semi-automatic handguns with him-- and left a note detailing his violent intentions.
Baatz says it's those intentions the officer prevented.
"Something just happened so close to your home-- you don't know how to deal with it," she says.
Often, Jerue explains, especially during overnight hours, DeWitt Township officers back up DeWitt City officers on call, and vice versa. That was happening on this instance, where the call was in DeWitt proper. A shooting like this one is unusual for the community; Jerue says he thinks there's never been a homicide in DeWitt, and can't remember the last time there was a shooting.
"In this small little town, it ends up meaning a little more when you realize all of these officers probably grew up together, their families congregate, their kids go to school together," Baatz says.
"It's like one extended family, anytime a family member gets hurt, it hits hard," Jerue says.
The officer is out of surgery and expected to recover, police say. Oakes' wife and children, according to police, are safe and sound-- but shaken up.