By Meg Jones, Mary Spicuzza, and Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (TNS)
MILWAUKEE — Law enforcement officials spent Wednesday piecing together the chain of events that began with Steven Timothy Snyder robbing a bank, escalated with him gunning down a Wausaukee man, and culminated in a shootout with a state trooper that left both men dead.
The fatal spree left two communities in mourning.
In the tiny Marinette County community of Wausaukee, townsfolk were stunned and saddened to learn that native son Thomas C. Christ, 59, was found dead on the side of the road near some farmland he owned. They remembered Christ as a hard worker and family guy who years ago started a baseball league in town.
In Kiel, which straddles Calumet and Manitowoc counties, the death of Trooper Trevor Casper, 21, numbed people who knew him as a natural leader who had just graduated from the State Patrol Academy in December. Casper had completed 12 weeks of field training paired with another officer, and was just minutes from completing his first solo shift.
Authorities offered no information on Snyder, beyond sharing that his family in Michigan had been notified.
Information on the sequence of events Tuesday afternoon remained sketchy.
At 1:43 p.m., Snyder fired one shot in the State Bank of Florence, stole cash, and fled in one of the bank employee’s vehicles, according to Marinette County Sheriff Jerry Sauve.
Christ apparently happened upon the bank robber near the intersection of Highway 180 and Jermac Road. Christ owned a farm near that intersection but didn’t live there and the farm appeared as if it was not in use.
Sauve said only that Christ was found at 2:35 p.m. near a pickup truck that was still running. Officers searching the area found the bank employee’s stolen vehicle. They believe Snyder encountered Christ, shot him, and fled in another vehicle from that spot.
Within minutes the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department issued this description of the bank robber — a 6 foot tall white man wearing blue jeans, gray shoes, gray sweatshirt, orange reflective/mirrored glasses, and a ball cap with a black front, white back with orange lettering.
About 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Casper was following a vehicle in Fond du Lac that fit the description of one being driven by the suspect. After making contact, there was an exchange of gunfire that left both dead, the state Department of Justice said. When officers found Snyder’s body, his size and clothes fit the description of the bank robber.
Other officers apparently were nearby when Casper was shot. Capt. Tony Burrell of the Wisconsin State Patrol said, “I won’t say I was a witness. I did see Trooper Casper fall to the ground.”
Casper was the first state trooper to be fatally shot in the line of duty in almost 43 years.
Another bank robbery was reported at about 4:30 p.m. in Fond du Lac at Hometown Bank, about a two-hour drive south from Wausaukee. The bank robber was reportedly wearing a hat and hood, but no mask.
It was not certain Wednesday if the second robbery was related to Snyder, but his shootout with Casper occurred about an hour later, outside a Pick ‘n Save located about 500 yards away from the bank.
Condolences for Casper poured in throughout the day Wednesday on the Facebook page created in his memory.
His family released a statement saying that Casper was “so very proud” of the career he looked forward to as trooper. They asked for time and privacy to grieve.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker released a statement saying that he and his wife were praying for Casper’s family.
“Trooper Trevor Casper was killed while bravely serving his community and doing his duty to keep our citizens safe,” Walker said. “Tonette and I are praying for Trooper Casper’s family and our thoughts are with them and the broader law enforcement community at this difficult time.”
And Attorney General Brad Schimel said in a statement: “We at the (Department of Justice) join the Wisconsin law enforcement community and all the citizens of the state in mourning the loss of the Wisconsin state trooper who died in the line of duty trying to keep our citizens safe. I ask for your prayers for this officer and his family.”
Both American and Wisconsin flags were at half staff Wednesday at the State Patrol headquarters in Fond du Lac, where a man dropped off a bouquet of red flowers and a police chaplain was seen walking into the station.
On an LED light board outside the Fond du Lac Police Department, a memorial message said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the WSP. Trooper Casper EOW 3/24/15 R.I.P.”
Back at the Pick ‘n Save, about two miles from the State Patrol station, shoppers pushed carts filled with groceries in the portion of the parking lot not roped off with yellow police tape.
A short distance behind the grocery store, investigators continued to collect evidence from the front lawn of an apartment building where Snyder was killed.
“Autopsies on Casper and Snyder are expected to be completed today and likely will assist in determining what occurred during the confrontation,” Department of Justice spokeswoman Anne E. Schwartz said Wednesday.
The state’s Division of Criminal Investigation is investigating the crime spree and doesn’t believe there are any additional suspects at large, Schwartz said.
(Mark Hoffman and Jesse Garza of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.)
(c)2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC
Photo: Inventorchris via Flickr