Public Safety Officer Eric Zapata
1400 block of Hays Park
UPDATE: Kalamazoo, Mich.(WZZM)- The 31-year old man who shot and killed Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer Eric Zapata was likely armed with more than one weapon; a hand gun and a long-gun. After firing at the original responding officer, he ran through an alley, pulled out another gun, and shot Zapata in the head and chest.
In a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Chief Jeff Hadley said,
"He was 35-years old, a 10 year veteran of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety."
It's an announcement that's never been made in Kalamazoo, an officer was killed in the line of duty.
"Our hearts go out to the Zapata family as they grieve the loss of their father, son, and brother," says Chief Jeff Hadley.
It started just after 11pm Monday night in the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo. Officers were called to the scene for shots fired. The first officer encountered 31-year old Leonard Statler, who was on his porch, armed with a handgun. Statler fired at the officer. "The officer returned fire and radioed for assistance as he sought cover." Statler is believed to have pulled out a long gun and ran through the alley. Neighbors say they heard about 9 or 10 shots.
As Statler ran through an alley, it is believed that he came upon Officer Zapata. "Mr. Statler proceeded to shoot the public safety officer in the head and chest area. We believe he then took his own life with that long gun. He was pronounced dead at the scene."
Zapata was also pronounced dead a short time later at Bronson Hospital. Chief Hadley says it seems to be a growing trend nationally. Officer deaths increased last year by 40-percent. "According to the Law Enforcement Memorial Page, Officer Zapata was the 62nd officer killed in the line of duty this year alone."
Officer Zapata leaves behind three children and several co-workers who consider themselves family.
"And it hits home and it hits hard. And we realize how fragile life is and know how quickly it can be taken away from us."
Leonard Statler has a criminal record including carrying a concealed weapon and malicious destruction of fire or police property. The exact reasons for his actions last night are not yet known.
UPDATE NOON - KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WZZM) - The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has identified the officer who was shot and killed overnight.
35-year-old Eric Zapata, a 10-year veteran of the department, was killed in the shooting in the 1400 block of Hays Park.
During an afternoon news conference Chief Jeff Hadley choked back tears as he described Zapata as a friendly officer who was always smiling. Hadley says Zapata was the father of 3 children but their ages are unknown at this time.
The man accused of killing Officer Zapata is identified as Leonard Statler.
The shooting happened shortly after 11pm Monday night in the 1400 block of Hays Park in Kalamazoo. Police were called there to investigate a report of shots fired.
A preliminary investigation shows that when officers arrived they encountered Statler standing on a porch and asked him if he had heard any gunshots in the area. Police say that's when 31-year old Leonard Statler advanced toward one of the officers and pulled out a handgun and exchanged gunfire. Other officers in the area say seconds later they heard more gun shots.
Authorities say the suspect had confronted the second officer, Eric Zapata, who was trying to block him. They say that's when Statler shot and killed officer Zapata and then turned the gun on himself. Statler died at the scene.
Chief Hadley says the fatal shooting is the first in the history of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. He says there hasn't been an officer death in the county since the 1860's.
Meanwhile the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department is asking for prayers for their fallen comrade and his family.
Funeral arrangements for Officer Zapta are currently underway.
WZZM 13's Sarah Sell is in Kalamazoo and will have more on WZZM 13 News at 5:30 and 6:00pm.