Arnold officer still in critical condition after shooting; medications reduced

An Arnold police officer who sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot Dec. 5 by a suspect he was transpor...

Posted: Jan. 2, 2018 10:06 AM
Updated: Jan. 2, 2018 10:06 AM

An Arnold police officer who sustained life-threatening injuries after being shot Dec. 5 by a suspect he was transporting to booking remains in critical condition.

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The Arnold Police Department said although officer Ryan O'Connor is still in critical condition, many of his medications are being reduced.

The department also reported O'Connor has overcome "many hurdles" in the past three weeks.

Authorities said O'Connor was transporting suspect Chad Klahs, in custody for an alleged burglary, when Klahs shot him inside his patrol SUV.

Arnold police responded to a burglary on Bramtonn Place around 12:45 p.m. Dec. 5. Police said Klahs stole a gun before he made his way across Jeffco Boulevard.

Matt Saller said he came face-to-face with Klahs in the Fox Pointe neighborhood in his backyard.

"He was off. You could tell he wasn't all there and he was scuffled and that's what worried me," Saller said.

Saller said he told Klahs to leave.

"He tripped over one of my lawn chairs as he was going out," Saller said.

Saller said he then watched Klahs wander onto his neighbor's property before he darted into the woods.

While searching for the suspect, officers reported hearing gunshots in the woods nearby. At that point, it wasn't clear if they were being fired upon, but they called the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to assist.

Shortly after making that call, the 29-year-old Klahs was found behind Zingers Mart on Jeffco Boulevard and arrested. Police searched him and recovered a weapon, but police now believe he had a second gun on him that went undiscovered.

O'Connor had Klahs in his vehicle when he headed back to the police station around 2 p.m. Dec. 5. There was a cage separating the O'Connor from Klahs in the SUV, but there was enough space for a bullet to get through.

The shooting happened in the parking lot behind the Arnold Police Department and police realized something was wrong when O'Connor never made it to the sally port.

"There was a delay. The cameras show the car going by the booking sally port behind the building," said Captain Gary Higginbotham with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. "And there was about a 45-second delay from what we understand, and they checked on the status and found the vehicle where it was."

Responding officers discovered both men inside the vehicle. O'Connor was shot once in the head. Klahs was also found suffering from a gunshot wound, which police believe was self-inflicted.

O'Connor and Klahs were taken to St. Anthony's Medical Center, and O'Connor was out of surgery and stable as of 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5, but remains in critical condition.

Authorities announced Klahs died from his wounds sometime before 5 p.m. Dec. 5.

O'Connor underwent another round of surgery Dec. 7, in an attempt to save his life, according to police.

O'Connor, 44, has been in law enforcement for 20 years and has previously worked for the St. Louis County and Ferguson police departments. He has worked in Arnold for about three years.

Klahs had an extensive criminal record. According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, he was in prison four times; most recently released in March of this year.

He had previously pleaded guilty to burglary and threatening a witness to his crime. That witness reported receiving several threatening phone calls from Klahs, every day, three and four times an hour. Klahs reportedly threatened to "kill him" and "shoot up his house."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department is handling the investigation.

Friends of O'Connor described him as a "fine officer." The Arnold police chief reminded the community that this incident has been a tough time for everyone involved.

BackStoppers announced they have donated $5,000 to O'Connor's family.

Many fundraisers have been held to raise money for O'Connor's medical expenses. More than 60 area restaurants took part in a dine-out to donate proceeds to O'Connor's family.

A gun raffle was held, T-shirts were made (and sold out in one hour), and a prayer vigil was held shortly after the shooting.

A GoFundMe page has also been set up for O'Connor. Although it has already surpassed its $50,000 goal, you can still donate.

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