Hermann, MO – The career criminal accused of murdering a Hermann police officer and critically wounding a second officer had seven outstanding warrants for his arrest at the time of the attack and had been on the run for nearly a year, according to police.
Kenneth Lee Simpson, 35, has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, two counts of armed criminal action, and unlawful possession of a weapon in connection with the fatal March 12 shooting and the nearly 14-hour standoff that ensued, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Hermann Police Department (HPD) Detective Sergeant Mason Griffith, a 34-year-old, married father-of-one, was murdered in the attack.
HPD Officer Adam Sullentrup, 31, was severely wounded and remained hospitalized in critical condition on Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The series of events leading up to the deadly shooting began at the Casey’s store at 115 MO-19 just before 9:30 p.m. on March 12, WGEM reported.
According to court documents released on Tuesday, HPD officers were dispatched to the business after someone called to complain about a man who was acting irate inside the store, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
R.I.P. Det. Sgt. Mason Griffith
Hermann PD, Missouri
Sergeant Griffith & another officer were responding to a disturbance at a store. Both officers were shot. One officer is in serious but stable condition. Sergeant Griffith succumbed to his injuries.
Prayers 🙏 pic.twitter.com/uLGCLQ2BMK
— 👑💥 Serenity 💥👑 (@polishprincessh) March 15, 2023
Det. Sgt. Griffith and Officer Sullentrup responded to the scene and identified the suspect at Simpson, who they knew had six felony warrants out of Warren County and one misdemeanor warrant with statewide extradition out of Franklin County, according to investigators.
Gasconade County prosecutors said the two officers approached Simpson while calling him “Kenny,” but that he refused to acknowledge them.
When the officers asked him for his identification, he claimed he did not have it on him and told them his name was Justin, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Several minutes later, he said his name was Kevin.
Simpson repeatedly denied his true identity, even when the officers assured him they were already aware of who he was, prosecutors said.
We hope for a speedy recovery for Hermann Police Officer Adam Sullentrup. pic.twitter.com/Wg4whxhFLX
— MSHP Colonel (@MSHPColonel) March 13, 2023
Officer Sullentrup even went out to his patrol vehicle at one point to get a photo of Simpson to show him they knew who he was, but Simpson still continued to deny his identity.
Investigators said the suspect became more defensive and agitated as the situation continued, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
When he began pacing, the officers became concerned he was preparing to try to flee.
Det. Sgt. Griffith then pulled out his handcuffs and informed the suspect he was being placed under arrest, investigators said.
Simpson allegedly turned away from the officers as they closed in on him, then pulled a gun and opened fire, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The attack was captured by the store’s security cameras.
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Hermann Missouri Police Department Det. Sgt. Mason Griffith who was killed in the line of duty last night. He will never be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/7MtpLs0VFu
— St. Louis County PD (@stlcountypd) March 13, 2023
Neither of the officers had time to draw their own weapons before they were both shot by the wanted fugitive, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
Det. Sgt. Griffith was able to return fire as Simpson was fleeing, according to police.
Both wounded officers were flown to a St. Louis hospital, where Det. Sgt. Griffith succumbed to his wounds, WGEM reported.
He served the HPD for 13 years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said in a tweet.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) issued a Blue Alert for Simpson just before 10 p.m. on March 12, KRCG reported.
They said Simpson fled the scene in an unknown direction in a black Jeep Wrangler.
Investigators later determined the gunman barricaded himself inside a residence across the street from the convenience store, KMOV reported.
Simpson was taken into custody by the MSHP SWAT team at approximately 2 p.m. on March 13, the highway patrol said in an update.
The coward who took the life of Detective Sgt. Mason Griffith and shot Officer Adam Sullentrup is in custody and wearing the handcuffs of Detective Sgt Griffith. pic.twitter.com/nDePta1Ktj
— Noah Snelson🇺🇸 (@Noah_Snelson_) March 14, 2023
During an interview with MSHP Trooper A.B. Kings later that night, Simpson allegedly acknowledge he was aware of his outstanding warrants and that he had planned to die at the convenience store in a “suicide by cop” scenario, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
“When the officers attempted to arrest him, Simpson stated he tried to give them the chance to shoot him, and his reactions turned into a fight or flight situation,” Trooper Kings wrote in the arrest affidavit.
Simpson claimed the only person he intended to have die during the encounter was himself, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The MSHP Division of Drug and Crime Control is handling the ongoing investigation.
Police said Simpson has a lengthy criminal history dating back to at least 2004, WGEM reported.
He is also the subject of multiple pending cases and had been on the run for nearly a year, according to investigators.
In 2017, the MSHP’s Bomb Squad responded to a residence in the16000-block of Shetland Lane after Simpson’s neighbors reported there had been “large explosions occurring” at the property over the past several months, KSDK reported.
Investigators said they located multiple pieces of metal that appeared to be improvised explosive devices (IEDs), as well as multiple carbon monoxide containers and multiple gunpowder containers.
According to police, Simpson confessed he had been building IEDs and explained how he constructed and detonated them, KSDK reported.
Investigators said they also located a methamphetamine pipe with residue in it and a gun hidden in a box in the basement of the residence during that investigation.
He was busted with two more guns and a glass meth pipe in Warren County that same year, KSDK reported.
Simpson was charged with punching his father in the face in another incident, and was arrested for third-degree felony assault in 2019 for allegedly attacking a fellow inmate at the Warren County Jail.
Other offenses on his criminal history include trespassing, vehicle tampering, possession of a synthetic cannabinoid, property damage, driving while suspended or revoked, and child support violation, according to KSDK.