A tragic shooting of two construction workers outside a Blue Valley Elementary school Tuesday morning set off a chain of crimes with a bizarre ending as the suspect was taken into custody soon after noon.
One worker died at the hospital. Another remained in critical condition.
The suspect had police scrambling throughout Overland Park with a string of carjacking incidents but was found unexpectedly in the south Overland Park home of the owner of an SUV he stole near 148th Street and Metcalf Road during the crime spree.
The suspect surrendered outside the home and was booked into jail, but not until after failed in an attempt to escape law officers around 127th and Antioch Road during the transport to jail.
He was one of the workers at Sunrise Point Elementary School near 158th Street and Roe Avenue who were putting in new playground synthetic turf about 9 a.m. when an apparent argument turned violent, police said.
No children were at the school. No one else was injured.
After shooting two co-workers, the suspect fled in his car but soon was apparently trying to carjack another vehicle.
The first carjacking attempt was reported at a car wash at 151st and Metcalf. That was soon followed by a report of a carjacking at gunpoint at 148th and Metcalf, where the suspect fled north on Metcalf in a black GMC Denali.
Overland Park police were returning the victim of the Denali carjacking to his home, but when they got there the stolen vehicle was in the owner’s driveway. One of the owner’s dogs, which had been secured inside the house, was outside in the yard.
They drove away from the house and called in tactical SWAT officers because they believed it possible the suspect was in the house.
Why the suspect had driven to the Denali owner’s home was a mystery to investigators Tuesday.
“It’s weird,” said Overland Park Police spokesman John Lacy. “I’ve never seen anything like that in 25 years in law enforcement.”
Law enforcement personnel from multiple agencies surrounded the home for about two hours as police attempted to make contact and determine if anyone was inside. Officers circulated through the neighborhood warning residents to stay inside their homes.
Jeff Wilson of Mound City, Kan., told The Star he was the first carjacking victim. He was preparing to pull into the car wash off Metcalf when a truck cut him off. A man exited, holding a gun in one hand and a bag in the other.
"(He) waved the gun, wanted my car," Wilson said. "I got out and gave it to him. … You got a guy with a gun in your face, you just do what he says to do."
Later Wilson learned the man was a suspect in the shooting at Blue Valley Elementary. He felt thankful things didn't turn out worse for him.
Rebecca Bell, who lives next door to the home where the suspect hid, said U.S. Marshals warned her and her children to get into their basement.
Later, she told reporters she was glad the suspect didn’t come looking for hostages, “because our garage door was wide open,” she said. “The kids were terrified.”
Joyce and Rorbert Andrew live about a block from the home. They also took cover after a neighbor "came running" and told them to get inside for safety.
"It was scary," Robert Andrew said.
Around noon the SWAT team was preparing to advance toward the house with an armored vehicle, and that is when the suspect left out the back of the house, Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said.
Witnesses said the suspect surrendered and was handcuffed in a neighboring back yard.
Donchez said the person who surrendered was “positively identified” as the suspect police had been seeking.
A massive collaboration of agencies had joined in the search for the suspect and in the surrounding of the house and neighborhood where he was arrested, Donchez said. Johnson County sheriff's deputies, federal marshals, federal ATF agents and Kansas Highway Patrol officers joined Overland Park police, he said.
While on the way to the Johnson County jail, police reported, the suspect tried to escape from a police vehicle near 127th Street and Antioch.
The suspect was held at “Taser point” while backup officers came to the scene, police said. After a few minutes, he was secured and taken on to jail.
The men who were shot outside the school worked for a contractor and were installing synthetic turf on the school’s playground, a spokeswoman for the Blue Valley School District said.
Other schools where summer classes were in session kept everyone secured inside the buildings while the suspect was at large.
The company working on the playground was Turf Etc., the district’s spokesperson, Kaci Brutto, said. The company has done work for the district for about five years.
A woman who answered the phone at the company’s office in Lee’s Summit Tuesday said they had no comment.