PA officer wounded, suspect dead following shoot-out

Published 6:48 pm Saturday, March 8, 2008

A Port Arthur Police officer is receiving from a gunshot wound and a suspect is dead following a shoot-out Saturday morning.

PAPD Officer and SWAT team member Mathew Bulls, 28, is currently in stable condition at Christus Hospital St. Elizabeth in Beaumont.

About 12:05 a.m. Saturday, officers on patrol noticed a white GMC truck driving erratically and at speeds in excess of 100 mph. The driver, later identified as Tremaine Darnell Flanagan, 28, of Port Arthur, eluded several officers. Bulls was nearly struck by the vehicle as Flanagan traveled north on Memorial Boulevard.

The driver then pulled into the Raceway Convenience Store, 2705 Memorial Blvd. with Bulls in pursuit. The officer attempted to stop the driver but the driver resisted. Bulls deployed his Taser into the man but the suspect did not stop, police said.

The incident turned deadly as Flanagan reportedly turned and fired three shots from a .25 caliber gun; one struck Bulls in the chest and lodged in his bullet-proof vest while the second shot struck just above the vest, entered Bulls’ sternum and lodged in his chest. A third bullet flew towards a witness who was getting fuel, entering the person’s shirt and striking a cell phone before exiting.

Bulls returned fire eight times with six shots hitting Flanagan, Chief Mark Blanton said at a somber press conference at the police station Saturday afternoon. Two of the shots hit the convenience store, shattering a window. Flanagan died from his wounds at the scene.

While injured and bleeding, Bulls called for an ambulance for Flanagan and alerted dispatch that he had been shot, Blanton said.

Blanton said the first bullet to strike the officer would have been fatal had he not been wearing his ballistic armor. The vests are part of standard issue equipment but wearing them is optional, an issue the chief is pondering on changing.

“The vests are very important,” he said. “The city has issued ballistic armor since about 1976 when an officer was shot and killed. It is now part of our issue equipment and is optional to wear. At this point, it will be reviewed.”

Bulls has been a member of the PAPD for just more than five years. He is the second officer shot in the line of duty in about a year. Last April Tomie Gipson, a PAPD patrol officer, was shot in the leg as he attempted to apprehend two robbery in the 4700 block of Ninth Avenue.

The camaraderie of officers was evident in the early morning hours after the shooting. Numerous officers from PAPD and some from Beaumont Police Department packed the hospital in support of the injured officer. Jefferson County Sheriff Mitch Woods called Blanton Saturday morning inquiring on Bulls’ condition, Blanton said.

Groves City Marshal Jeff Wilmore understands the danger officers face on a daily basis.

“I’m glad he (Bulls) is ok,” he said. “His extensive training assisted him. You have to be prepared in all possibilities and in all situations, something could come out of the blue.”

Once recovered Bulls will undergo a psychiatric evaluation, as required by law, before returning to work.

“This was unfortunate but I’m grateful my officer is fine,” he said. “I also feel for the family of the deceased, for the loss they’re experiencing.”

Blanton said no officer wants to take a life .

Internal Affairs is investigating the incident and full autopsy results on Flanagan will not be available for some time because of the back log associated with toxicology.

Surveillance tape has been secured as evidence as well as images and audio from the officers camera. Numerous witnesses were at the scene of the shooting, he said.

Bulls is expected to be moved from the intensive care unit to a private room but surgeons are not recommending the removal of the bullet in Bulls’ chest, Blanton said.

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