Monday, September 10, 2012

West Bloomfield officer fatally shot; police in standoff with gunman | The Detroit News |

West Bloomfield officer fatally shot; police in standoff with gunman |

West Bloomfield Township — A 12-year veteran of the police department was fatally shot Sunday night at a home near Pontiac Trail and Halsted, prompting a police standoff with gunfire exchanges for more than 10 hours.

According to authorities, police responding 10 p.m. Sunday to a "shots fired" run at a residence on the 4000 block of Forest Edge Lane were met with gunfire, striking one officer, Patrick O'Rourke, 39.

O'Rourke, a married father of four, later died after being taken to nearby McLaren Hospital in Pontiac, police said. It was the township's first officer fatality in its history.

According to West Bloomfield Township Police Lt. Timothy Diamond, several officers went into the home upon their arrival, and they encountered gunfire when entering a bedroom.

"It's shocking," Diamond said. "We are a tight-knit group over here. We aren't used to losing anybody, so this is especially tragic."

The gunman is believed to still be inside the home Monday morning, prompting the evacuation of some residents of Forest Edge Lane. Those residents have been moved to the township's hall.

"We are sure he is still in there," said Diamond. "He has fired off several more gunshots."
Township officials hope an armored vehicle will put an end to the standoff Monday.

Police say the gunman has fired 50 gunshots, including shooting up a police robot. It is believed the gunman has several weapons, including an Uzi submachine gun. As of 8:30 a.m., police reported no activity in the house in the last 90 minutes but then gunfire erupted shortly after.

"It's been a long morning," said West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste, who has been with about 30 residents from the neighborhood.

The scene has been turned over to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office SWAT team, Diamond said. Neighboring departments have also shown up at the West Bloomfield Township station and offered their services to the 71-man department "to help with the current situation and what we will go through in the days ahead," Diamond said.

Diamond said the incident began shortly after 10 p.m. Sunday when several people fled the address and called 911 to report a family member had fired gunshots in the house.

"We don't know what set him off," said Diamond. "Officers responded and went in looking for the guy … they made their way to a second floor and outside a bedroom when he opened fire."

O'Rourke was hit and other officers retreated with him. Shots were exchanged with the gunman, Diamond said. It is not known if the gunman was hit.

O'Rourke is described as "a model police officer and a good family man."

Diamond said police are still looking into the shooter's background but said the township has not had contact with him or the address outside of an "occasional false alarm run" due to a burglar alarm going off at the home. Homes in the area are equipped with the devices and it is not uncommon, he said.

A bus was brought in to evacuate neighbors on the street of about 15 homes located east of Halsted Road, Diamond said.

They were taken to the township hall where they made arrangements with friends or relatives, Diamond said.

Ureste said residents were evacuated at about 2 a.m. The Salvation Army has brought in food for the families as police officers stood in the hallways of the township hall.

Amy Kaplansky, a West Bloomfield Township resident who lives two houses away from the shooting, has been up all night at town hall. Police evacuated Kaplansky and her 11-year-old son, Josh, early Monday morning. Kaplansky sat in the town hall common area Monday morning watching for a signal that it's alright to go home.

"We heard gun shots, but several police officers were there, so we knew something was going on," Kaplansky said. "We were all scared."

Also there, Lori Sellman, a 10-year neighborhood resident, said the experience was unreal.

"You're sleeping and the next thing you have knocks on your door and you have to get dressed quickly and you're being driven away in a Humvee," Sellman said. "And this is West Bloomfield, Michigan. This is the stuff that you see in the movies. It's crazy."

Traffic has been closed on Pontiac Trail for several hours in both directions, Diamond said. It is not known how long the roadway will be closed, so motorists are encouraged to seek alternative routes Monday.

Come back to as this story develops.

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