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.