MSP: 2 troopers shot in Branch County, suspect dead

MSP Detective Sgt. Aaron Steensma, Trooper Daniel Thayer
Left: MSP Detective Sgt. Aaron Steensma. Right: MSP Trooper Daniel Thayer. (Courtesy photo)


UNION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Michigan State Police detective was seriously wounded and a trooper sustained a minor injury when a suspect opened fire on a group of officers near Union City Wednesday morning. That suspect was later found dead.

The shooting happened around 11:15 a.m. along Francisco Road near Arbogast Road in Union Township while six troopers were executing a search warrant related to a cold case investigation in the 2009 murder of Duane Finney. 1st. Lt. Dale Hinz, commander of MSP’s Paw Paw Post, told 24 Hour News 8 he couldn’t say what kind of evidence the troopers were searching for.

Francisco Road, Arbogast Road, Union Township, MSP troopers shot
Photo: The scene along Francisco Road hours after the shooting. (Jan. 24, 2018)

Lt. Jim Coleman, commander of MSP’s Marshall Post, said officers approached the back door of the residence and the suspect told them he was armed. The troopers pulled back and set up a perimeter.

“At some point, he exited the house and came out shooting at the officers on scene,” Coleman said.

Detective Sgt. Aaron Steensma was shot in the clavicle. Trooper Daniel Thayer’s bullet-resistant vest protected him from a gunshot blast to the chest; he also received a grazing wound to the hand from a fragment.

“We are proud to report that Trooper Dan Thayer, who was also involved in this incident, was wearing his heavy bullet-resistant vest and his stopped one that probably would have ended his life,” Hinz said. “It hit pretty much dead center of his chest, which would have been a traumatic injury if that one would have got through the body armor.”

Steensma was first sent to Promedica Hospital in Coldwater and then airlifted to Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo where he was taken in for surgery. Later Wednesday, he was listed in serious but stable condition.

“He’s going to be fine, it sounds like, which is a good thing,” Coleman said.

Thayer is not seeking medical attention.

Steensma has been with MSP for 19 years and Thayer for 21, MSP said.

The suspect’s body was later found in a corn field. Investigators are still working to determine whether he died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds or from shots fired by officers. His name has not yet been released.

“Any time we’re going to get involved in an operation like this, we take all these precautions, we talk about things — what if this happens? So this is one of those situations where planning worked out in our favor,” Coleman said.

Schools in the Union City Area School District were placed on lockdown immediately after the shooting, but that was lifted after the danger was over.

Authorities remained on the scene along Francisco Road into the night as they investigated.

Family members confirmed the man who owns the property lived there. Online property records show he used to live next door to Finney, the 2009 murder victim in Coldwater.

“Gentleman (Finney) was found in a field on the side of the road. He was on his way to work and completely unknown who shot him, and that’s the case that they’re working on. It’s been going on now for some time,” Lt. Coleman said.

Finney’s brother and widow declined on-camera interviews Wednesday, but Finney’s widow Crystal Finney did tell 24 Hour News 8 that justice has still not been served.

Gov. Rick Snyder tweeted his support for the troopers Wednesday afternoon and thanked the men and women who work in law enforcement.

–24 Hour News 8’s Brady Gillum, Joe LaFurgey and Sarah Hurwitz contributed to this report.