GREENVILLE — A man kidnapped his girlfriend and their child in mid-Missouri and led police on a chase into Illinois, then killed an innocent motorist in a carjacking attempt before dying in a shootout with officers late Tuesday night, authorities said.
The carjacking victim, a man from north St. Louis County, was killed in rural Illinois. The alleged carjacker died in an exchange of gunfire in Bond County, Illinois, though it wasn't clear whether a shot from police killed him or he shot himself. The girlfriend was shot several times and was in surgery. The child was not hurt.
Capt. Timothy Tyler, commander of the Illinois State Police District 11, identified the dead gunman as Leslie K. Austin, 39, of Jefferson City, Mo. He said the man killed in the carjacking attempt was Gregory Price, 67.
It all began about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Jefferson City, when police were called about a shooting on a parking lot at an apartment complex in the 500 block of East Elm Street. Witnesses saw a blue SUV speed away. Police say Austin had kidnapped his girlfriend and their child. The woman was shot during the abduction.
Jefferson City Police Lt. Dave Williams said the woman had a restraining order against Austin. According to court records, a judge in Cole County Circuit Court last Thursday ordered Austin to stay at least 100 feet away from the woman.
The path of the pursuit included Highway 50 in Missouri and interstates 44 and 55 into Illinois. The woman and child somehow managed to escape the fleeing SUV once the pursuit entered Bond County, about 50 miles east of St. Louis and 170 miles by road from Jefferson City.
Tyler said the woman, 33, was in surgery Wednesday morning and still alive. A Bond County official identified the child as a 10-year-old girl.
After the kidnapping and shooting in Jefferson City, police checked with local hospitals there but didn't find any victims; so they put out an alert to other Missouri agencies to watch for the blue SUV.
Franklin County deputies spotted the SUV before 9 p.m. on Highway 50 near Highway 47 in Union and tried to stop it. The vehicle, a 2017 Mitsubishi, sped away. Police in Franklin County were joined by troopers with the Missouri Highway Patrol in a chase. During the chase, police say multiple shots were fired from the suspect's vehicle, Williams said.
The chase continued on I-44 east into St. Louis County and St. Louis city before crossing into Illinois. The SUV crossed the Poplar Street Bridge into Illinois at 9:34 p.m. Tuesday, Trooper Josh Korando of the Illinois State Police said. Police from several jurisdictions were in pursuit.
Once in Illinois, Bond County deputies threw down "stop sticks" to deflate the tires of the fleeing SUV on Route 140 near the Bond and Madison county line, said Chief Deputy Josh Hill of the Bond County Sheriff's Department. The tactic worked, and the fleeing SUV was slowed near Mettler Road. However, the pursuit continued — at low speeds — for a short distance until the shootout near on Old Nebo Avenue near Terrapin Ridge Road.
The disabled vehicle was moving slow enough that the woman and girl were able to get out along Illinois Route 140, police say.
At some point along Route 140, Austin tried to carjack another vehicle, and he fatally shot Price. Korando said Price had been driving a pickup on Route 140 when he apparently pulled to the shoulder because he saw the police lights from the pursuit coming toward him.
"He was doing the right thing," Korando said of Price, for pulling over.
Korando wasn't certain what happened next; he said he hasn't talked with any officers to get an account of the attack. But Austin tried to take Price's vehicle and shot him dead.
"It's terrible," Korando said.
Austin didn't take Price's vehicle, but instead kept his own and continued to flee police in Bond County. He tried to carjack another vehicle but couldn't. Police didn't elaborate.
Austin got out of his SUV at a dead end of Old Nebo Avenue and fired several rounds of gunfire at pursuing officers, Korando said. An officer with the Illinois State Police returned fire. Police soon found Austin dead.
"At this time, we don't know if the officers shot him or it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound," Korando said.
An autopsy was being performed Wednesday on Price and Austin, according to Bond County Coroner Tony Brooks. Brooks said he expected to have preliminary results by late afternoon Wednesday.
Illinois State Police troopers and officers from several jurisdictions were involved in the pursuit, but none was hurt, Korando said.
Price, the carjacking victim, lived on a street near Highway 367 in north St. Louis County. A man who answered the door at Price's home Wednesday said the family wasn't ready to talk yet.
Denise Hollinshed of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.