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Officer named in robber’s gun death

31-year vet on leave amid shooting probe

– Fort Wayne police officer Jeffery E. Burkholder Sr. fired the shots that killed 21-year-old Stephen O’Neal Wattley II early Wednesday, police said Thursday.

Wattley was shot and killed after Burkholder and his partner chased him from the scene of an armed robbery at CVS Pharmacy, 2802 E. State Blvd., at Beacon Street, to Baldwin Creek Apartments in the 1900 block of Hobson Road.

As the officers entered the apartment where Wattley had tried to escape, Wattley was standing on the second floor and aimed a pistol-grip assault rifle at the officers, police said.

Burkholder, a 31-year veteran, fired his weapon at Wattley, striking him multiple times, Police Chief Rusty York said Wednesday. Wattley was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police declined to release the second officer’s name, saying he did not fire his weapon and the department wanted to avoid confusing the public about who fired the shot that killed Wattley.

Both officers remain on a five-day paid administrative leave per department policy, said Raquel Foster, a Fort Wayne Police Department spokeswoman.

Burkholder joined the department in September 1981 and is a former president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file officers.

He has been given four suspensions and two letters of reprimand since 1983, according to his personnel file.

He has been suspended twice for police vehicle crashes and twice for being absent without leave. He also received letters of reprimand for two other police vehicle crashes.

In 1990, Burkholder was recognized for meritorious service, according to his personnel file.

York said Wednesday that he believes Burkholder followed police protocol in shooting Wattley when he turned his weapon toward the officers.

The police chief said he would be in contact with both officers as they prepare to return to duty.

“We train our officers for the possibility of having to use their firearm, but this officer – as well as most officers – are never fully prepared for the emotional consequences of taking a life,” York said. “We make sure they have plenty of time, offer them counseling … and make sure they are taken care of so they can return when they are ready.”

Wattley’s death was the fifth homicide in Fort Wayne and Allen County this year.

jcrothers@jg.net

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