After 24-hour search, suspect shoots himself as police confront him

After 24-hour search, suspect shoots himself as police confront him

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MOUNT PLEASANT — Nearly 24 hours of fear for many county residents concluded Monday afternoon when the suspect in a kidnapping on Sunday and subsequent shoot out with sheriff’s deputies shot himself after being cornered in a stand of pine trees on Taylor Avenue.

Mount Pleasant Police Chief Tim Zarzecki and Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling confirmed that the suspect, Stantavious Sillas, 20, of Racine, died at about 6 p.m. at Froedtert Hospital in Wauwatosa. Sillas, the subject of an extensive manhunt since Sunday afternoon, was located at about 1:17 p.m. Monday in Mount Pleasant near Racine’s Georgetown area by Racine and Mount Pleasant police, Zarzecki said.

According to Lt. Al Days, spokesman for the Racine Police Department, arriving officers located fresh footwear impressions in the snow. The footprints led investigators to the subject’s location. Upon observing officers, Sillas threatened to shoot himself with a handgun, Days said.

Days said that officers on scene immediately attempted crisis-intervention measures in an attempt to prevent the subject from self-harm, but Sillas shot himself. South Shore Fire Department paramedics rushed Sillas to Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints hospital and he was subsequently transferred to Froedtert.

“This was not the ending anyone hoped for. But this individual made a series of very bad choices resulting in an unfortunate outcome,” Schmaling said Monday night. “But I’m also very pleased to report that no law enforcement officers were injured in the capture and we kept our citizens safe and appraised of information as this whole thing unfolded.”

The event on Taylor Avenue capped nearly 24 hours of terror that began when Sillas kidnapped a female employee at about 3 p.m. Sunday at Lakeview Speciality Hospital and Rehab, 1701 Sharp Road, Dover. Schmaling said that Sillas and the woman, who was unharmed and taken to safety later Sunday at the Union Grove Piggly Wiggly store, had a relationship, but he did not know the extent of it.

The sheriff said the woman was cooperating with investigators as the case continues to be put together.

“What brought him out there and what angered him so much that he felt the need to abduct her, we’re still learning that information,” Schmaling said.

Billy Blasingame, the administrator at Lakeview, confirmed Monday that the woman who was abducted from the hospital was an employee. He, too, did not know what relationship Sillas and the employee had. Blasingame said the woman was abducted close to the front entrance of the neurological specialty hospital and no patients or staff were put in danger.

That was not the case at the Piggly Wiggly lot in Union Grove, where Schmaling said Sillas “nearly executed” one of his investigators and fired shots in a parking lot busy with shoppers.

That confrontation took place at about 4 p.m. when a deputy in a marked sheriff’s car spotted the vehicle that had been described leaving the abduction scene about 11 miles away. An unmarked sheriff’s car arrived at the scene and blocked in Sillas’ car, Schmaling said.

“Before he could even put his car in park, (the investigator) saw the suspect come around a different vehicle and was pulling a weapon out of his side and aiming it toward the squad,” Schmaling said. “And as the investigator opened the door, gunfire erupted and there were glass shards falling on top of him.

He rolled out of the car to the ground, drew his weapon, identified where the suspect was and returned fire — we’re splitting seconds here. He fired several shots at the suspect and then (Sillas) fled on foot.

“From my observations at that scene, I am beyond words and even shocked to this moment that my deputy was not struck and killed,” Schmaling said.

The sheriff praised the judgment of the two deputies on scene at Piggly Wiggly for not using their weapons further as Sillas ducked in and out from between parked cars as he fled northward.

Somehow, Sillas managed to elude an army of police officers from numerous jurisdictions as they searched throughout the night for him. Schmaling said his department received numerous tips from citizens and all were checked out. As the search progressed, the Sheriff’s Office alerted Union Grove and Yorkville residents to stay in their homes. When they were unable to locate Sillas before morning, the decision was made to close Union Grove and Yorkville schools as a precaution.

“We had so many people out there and it is surprising he was able to slip through our fingers. It’s a vast area. He did have communications with him and he was able to summon, I’m guessing, a ride,” Schmaling said. “There’s no way he walked from the west end to the east end without being detected, not with the weather conditions we had last night.

“He got a ride. The question is from whom?”

It was citizen tips that led police and deputies to locate Sillas on Monday afternoon. Zarzecki said two Racine police officers and a Mount Pleasant canine officer tracked Sillas to the yard in the 5300 block of Taylor Avenue in Mount Pleasant, a few blocks southwest of the Georgetown area of Racine.

Brenda Gaspar, who lives in the 5300 block said, “I heard a gunshot and I heard a lot of voices.” But she didn’t know anything else about what else was going on as the incident unfolded.

Although police fired no weapons Monday afternoon and Sillas’ shooting himself was confirmed, local law enforcement leaders asked the state Department of Justice’s Criminal Investigations Division to investigate the shooting because so many jurisdictions were involved, Zarzecki said. The Wisconsin State Patrol also is assisting, Mount Pleasant Police said Monday night.

A grateful Schmaling praised his department for their long hours of work, including several staff members who were called in from home or worked overtime. He also expressed deep gratitude to the agencies that assisted his department over the 22-hour incident.

“I think our citizens, especially those in Union Grove, are taking a big sigh of relief this evening that this very dangerous criminal who tried to execute one of my deputies has been removed from the streets,” Schmaling said.

According to online court records, Sillas had several run-ins with police over the years and received several traffic and resisting/obstruction charges. A 2013 carjacking charge against him was dismissed, records indicate.

Stephanie Jones and Mark Schaaf contributed to this report.

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