Shooting suspect says he mistook officer for gang member
DANVILLE — A Danville-area man told investigators he mistook a police officer in a squad car for gang members when he turned and fired on the officer, striking him twice in the left arm and once on his back side.
Michael C. Rouse, 24, faces charges of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, aggravated battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm in connection with the May 30 shooting of Officer John Thompson, a 16-year veteran of the Danville department.
Danville police Detective Brian Lange testified Thursday during Rouse's preliminary hearing in Vermilion County Circuit Court that after Rouse's arrest, he claimed some Latin King gang members had previously shot at him, and when the police officer pulled up to him on May 30, he thought it was the gang members, so he turned and fired.
Lange testified that Rouse fired four to five times at Thompson, and Rouse claimed that when he realized it was a police officer, he continued firing to keep the officer from firing back and killing him.
Lange testified in Rouse's preliminary hearing in the shooting case, and a second hearing for Rouse was also held Thursday in a related armed robbery case. Judge Craig DeArmond found probable cause in both, and Rouse's jury trial date has been set for Aug. 4.
Rouse was arrested May 31 after a standoff with police at a residence in the 2600 block of Cannon Street. He was charged in the shooting of the police officer on June 1, and later that week, also was charged in an armed robbery.
The shooting happened at 5:30 p.m. May 30 while Thompson was on patrol in the 200 block of Kentucky Avenue. The officer saw Rouse walking in the area and thought he matched the description of a suspect in an armed robbery on May 28 at Family Dollar, 1228 E. Main St., Danville. When Thompson pulled up and got out of his squad, the man turned and fired at the officer, who returned fire but did not hit him. The shooter ran from the scene, and a massive search by multiple police agencies failed to end in an arrest until the next day when police had developed Rouse as their suspect, had a warrant for his arrest and took him into custody peacefully after the standoff on Cannon Street.
At Thursday's hearing, Danville police detective Danielle Lewallen testified that Thompson identified Rouse using a description detectives had developed following the armed robbery of Family Dollar, which was based on information from store employees and a surveillance video. Lewallen said the description, including a still-shot of the suspect from video, were distributed to officers. Lewallen said Rouse got $103 and some cigarettes in the robbery, and he told police he robbed the store because he was living on the streets and needed the money.
Following the shooting, Lange testified that police developed Rouse as the suspect when they took a video of him in the shootout to his mother, and she identified the man as her son. Lange testified that Rouse told detectives after the shooting that he stashed his gun in the back of a residence on Griffin Street, and detectives did find the weapon there.