Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

September 10, 2013

Trooper's slaying a 'senseless incident'

TRAVERSE CITY — The shooting death of a Michigan State Police trooper in Mason County served as a reminder to law enforcement officers of the danger that lurks even in a seemingly standard traffic stop.

Trooper Paul Butterfield died Monday during emergency surgery at Munson Medical Center. He stopped a vehicle at 6:20 p.m. in Sherman Township and three minutes later a motorist called 911 to report that a trooper had been shot in the head.

"I don't believe anyone would believe for a second on Sept. 9 that a routine traffic stop would be his last," said Capt. Robert Lesneski, commander of the state police's seventh district headquarters in Traverse City.

Police procedure may have helped track down a suspect — Butterfield reported the vehicle's license plate number to dispatch before the shooting. State police used the information to track a suspect to Manistee County and a Wellston gas station/convenience store at about 8:30 p.m.

Police shot a a male suspect after he pointed a handgun at an approaching trooper. Police transported the suspect to the hospital for a "non-life threatening wound." Authorities arrested a female suspect. Authorities haven't released the suspects' names.

Butterfield was a veteran of the U.S. Army before he became a trooper in 1999. He spent most of his career in Manistee and recently elected to serve in the Hart post.

Lesneski said state police are wearing black "mourning bands" that symbolize the loss of a member of the law enforcement family. He said he knew Butterfield from Manistee and he was still trying to understand the shooting.

"Trooper Butterfield did not make it home last night. It's hard to put that in words," he said. "There's a lot of bottled-up emotions. Law enforcement in general is a very dangerous job and we face those situations daily."

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