In July 2016, a Kansas man visited Carbondale to settle a debt over a marijuana deal, and shots were fired on the northeast side of town over a related dispute.
While driving toward the sound of the gunfire that hot summer night two and a half years ago in the 700 block of Robert A. Stalls Avenue, officers spotted a vehicle fleeing the area. After an unsuccessful attempt to pull over the driver, Officers Corey Brinkley and Trey Harris, who was in the passenger seat of their squad car, began a pursuit.
From the window of his vehicle, Alex Karcher fired seven shots at them from a high-powered rifle while reaching speeds up to 90 miles-per-hour headed down North Main Street and then Dillinger Road, law enforcement officials have said.
One of those bullets struck Officer Harris in the eye. Harris survived, but was seriously injured.
On Friday, a judge sentenced Karcher, 24, of Salina, Kansas, to serve 27 1/2 years, according to Jackson County State's Attorney Michael Carr.
With Friday's hearing, Karcher is the fifth person to be sentenced stemming from a multistate investigation into a drug ring spanning from Oregon to Kansas to Southern Illinois, and the events that culminated in Harris' injury.
Karcher admitted that he fired the shot that night that struck Harris, according to a news release from Carr's office. He is the only individual who has been sentenced related to Harris' injuries.
The other four individuals who were previously sentenced in connected to this case for drug-related convictions or pleas are:
* Christian Reichert, 26, of Marion, who was sentenced to 23 years for trafficking cannabis and 15 years for conspiracy to possess with the intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis;
* Brandon Jones, 26, of Carterville, who was sentenced to 18 years for trafficking cannabis and 15 years for conspiracy to possess with the intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis;
* Jared Jones, 27, of Carterville, who was sentenced to 10 years for conspiracy to possess with the intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis; and
* William Cummins, 30, who received four years probation for conspiracy to possess with the intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis.
On the Wednesday prior to the shooting, 15 pounds — $49,000 worth — of cannabis was taken from those involved in the conspiracy, Carr said previously. They were in Carbondale on July 31 to retaliate against whoever had taken it. During the course of the investigation, officers searched a house at Lake of Egypt that Reichert rented and found 42 pounds of cannabis wrapped in half-pound quantities in a safe.
"It is my hope the investigative efforts and sentences imposed — and certainly today’s sentence — sends a message which acts as a deterrent to those who may consider committing acts of violence, and in particular, acts of violence against police officers," Carbondale Police Chief Grubbs said.
Grubbs said that Officers Harris and Brinkley "put themselves in harm’s way that night to protect members of our community."
"If not for their actions, others would likely have been injured," Grubbs said. "Their performance, both before and after Officer Harris was shot, was exemplary. They are truly heroes and my prayers continue to go out to these officers and their families."
Harris, who was 26 at the time of the incident, and had joined the department only three years prior, was unable to continue his career in law enforcement because the extent of his eye injury. Brinkley has since left the Carbondale police department to join another law enforcement agency.
Karcher's sentencing comes three months after he pleaded guilty to the following charges: conspiracy to possess with the intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of a substance containing cannabis in Jackson and Williamson counties between 2014 and 2016, a Class 1 felony; aggravated battery to a police officer, a Class X felony; and aggravated discharge of a firearm, a Class X felony.
The investigation was conducted by the Illinois State Police, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the Carbondale Police Department, the Metro-East Forensic Science Lab, the Southern Illinois Enforcement Group, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and Salina, Kansas Police Department. State’s Attorney Carr was responsible for the prosecution.
"I am very appreciative of all of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners who continue to assist us in this multi-state investigation," Grubbs said.
MARION — Mary Nell Chew of Carbondale heard many inspiring things about the honor flights from Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois, so she signed up to be a guardian. Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois turned her down — she was too old.
Chew also had been considering ways to honor the veterans in her family. She came up with a plan and made an appointment to talk to Doug Kimmel, director of Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois and a member of the Honor Flight board.
“Doug probably thought I was there to complain about not being a guardian,” Chew said.
Instead of complaining, Chew offered to pay for the fifth flight from the Marion airport, which will be $83,000.
“I am sponsoring the flight in honor and remembrance of six wonderful veterans in my family who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines: my father, stepfather, husband and three uncles,” Chew said.
Her father, James W. West, an Army veteran of World War II, was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Her stepfather, Maurice Bergett, a Marine, was at Iwo Jima during World War II. Her husband, Harold Chew, served in the Army in Japan, during World War II. She is also honoring her uncles, Frank West, a Navy veteran of World War I; Lowell West, an Air Force veteran of World War II, whom she calls an extraordinary pilot; and E.G. Miller, an infantryman with the Army in Europe during World War II.
Chew interviewed several veterans who had been on honor flights from Marion, and their eyes lit up when they began to tell her about the trip.
"I realized recently what an opportunity it would be to give people a chance to go instead of just talking about it. I decided I'd just do something," Chew said.
Chew decided that her donation would not only honor the veterans in her family, but create memories for other veterans.
“I have been very privileged to be in Washington D.C. several times and had the honor of laying wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. It was awe-inspiring,” Chew said.
She made the donation during a reception and announcement Friday afternoon at the airport in Marion. Bryan Questelle, chairman of the board of Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois, announced the group’s fifth flight will be May 14.
“Flight five has a special set of circumstances. One person has stepped up to make it happen, Mary Nell Chew,” Questelle said.
Chew said she was impressed with the care the group took of the veterans and really the whole trip.
“To enable 90 people to go to Washington D.C. and come back with such glowing stories in heart-warming,” Chew said.
One of the vets who has glowing memories of the third Honor Flight is Virgil Lukens of Herrin. Lukens served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War, from 1951 to 1953, on the USS Yorktown, his home for two years.
He calls Honor Flight “very impressive” and believes every veteran should have the opportunity to go.
“Most people don’t appreciate how many people give their lives, so they can be here today,” Lukens said. “It’s unbelievable what you get to see a short period of time.”
“Wow!” Questelle said.
Veterans Honor Flight of Southern Illinois welcomes donations of $2 and $5. They received a donation of $381.63 from SIU Plant and Service Operations Director Brad Dillard and his employees, the proceeds of working concession stands during an SIU men’s basketball game, and Questelle was very happy to get the donation. Chew’s donation was completely unexpected.
“Never did I think one person would come through to sponsor an entire flight. That puts us in great position for flight six,” Questelle added.
To sign up to take a flight, make a donation or volunteer, visit www.veteranshonorflight.org or call Veterans Airport at 618-993-3353.
CHICAGO — The dangerous cold and heavy snow that hobbled the northern U.S. this week has retreated, but not before exacting a human toll: more than two dozen weather-related deaths in eight states and hundreds of injuries, including frostbite, broken bones, heart attacks and carbon monoxide poisoning.
In Illinois alone, hospitals reported more than 220 cases of frostbite and hypothermia since Tuesday, when the polar vortex moved in and overnight temperatures plunged to minus 30 or lower — with wind chills of minus 50 or worse in some areas.
Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis normally sees around 30 frostbite patients in an entire winter. It admitted 18 in the past week, spokeswoman Christine Hill said Friday.
"I definitely saw more frostbite than I've ever seen in my entire career just in the last three days," said Dr. Andrea Rowland-Fischer, an emergency department physician at Hennepin Healthcare.
Most of those patients, she said, had underlying problems that made it difficult for them to take care of themselves: the developmentally delayed, the mentally ill, the very young and the very old. They also included people with injuries related to drugs and alcohol — people who passed out or did not realize they were cold or injured.
"It's heartbreaking when there are people who can't take care of themselves and get exposed, just because they either escape from the care that they're being given or because they're not being supervised."
Others got frostbite on their way to work after being exposed to the cold for a short time, often on their hands, feet, ears and face. That included people whose cars would not start or who got stuck outside for other reasons, as well as those who just did not think they could get frostbitten so quickly and went outside without gloves or other protective gear.
Several required "maximal treatment," admission to the hospital's burn unit for therapies that include drugs to restore circulation to try to avoid amputations. Some of them will probably still require amputations, a decision usually made by burn doctors four to 10 days after the injury.
Many people decided to stay home even when they were sick to avoid slippery roads and subzero temperatures. In western Michigan, a health care system's online service saw a major spike this week.
More than 400 people over four days used Spectrum Health's MedNow to see a nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant about non-emergency issues, such as aches, rashes, cold and flu, said Joe Brennan, MedNow senior director. Most used an app on their phone.
Another danger was from carbon monoxide. A family of nine in Wheeling, Illinois, about 30 miles northwest of Chicago, was taken to local hospitals after heating their home with a charcoal grill. In Rockford, Illinois, four people were treated because they had warmed up cars in a closed garage or because a furnace vent became blocked by ice and snow.
In just a two-day period, Tuesday and Wednesday, Mercyhealth in Rockford treated 15 people for broken bones from falling on the ice, 10 people who were in car crashes caused by snow and eight people who complained of chest pain or shortness of breath from shoveling snow, hospital officials said.
Rockford set a new record low of minus 31 degrees Thursday, but the hospital only treated two cases of frostbite, emergency physician Dr. John Pakiela said.
"It was Antarctica there for a few days ... but I think people listened to professional advice and heeded warnings," about staying indoors or bundling up, he said.
By Friday, the deep freeze had mostly abated, with temperatures climbing as high as the low 20s in Minneapolis and Chicago. In western North Dakota, the temperature in Dickinson climbed above freezing by midmorning — a jump of nearly 60 degrees compared with Tuesday's low of minus 17 degrees.
The weather was thought to be a factor in at least 27 deaths, including a 90-year-old Michigan woman who died of hypothermia after locking herself out of her home while feeding birds. A motorist also died during a snowstorm Friday after striking a salt truck that had pulled off the side of Interstate 70 in central Indiana. Others died after freezing outdoors or in unheated homes or while shoveling snow.
BENTON — Investigating the disappearance of Alan K. Woolard, Franklin County sheriff's deputies made several drug arrests on Thursday in Christopher.
A news release from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office says that when deputies stopped at a Christopher residence Thursday in their search for Woolard, who has been missing since Jan. 23, they found drug activity in the home. After a warrant was issued, Brianna R. Parcel, 27, of Christopher was arrested and charged with the possession of meth.
Mark A. Berger, of Lemay, Missouri, was also arrested — he was charged with possession of meth and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
Boren R. Johnson, 47, of Mount Vernon, was arrested and charged with possession and delivery of meth.
David L. Barker, of Christopher, was also arrested. He was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. He posted bond and was released.
Parcel, Berger and Johnson are all being housed in the Franklin County Jail awaiting formal charges and the setting of bond.
According to a Tuesday news release from the sheriff’s office, Woolard, 42, was last seen around 11 p.m. Jan. 23 leaving his home in Buckner. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a light blue T-shirt and a white bandanna on his head.
Sheriff Dave Bartoni was reached by text while riding an ATV Friday in search of Woolard. He said the disappearance is not considered suspicious, but said there isn't a lot to work from.
"It's like searching for a needle in a haystack," he wrote.