Illinois State Police said a SWAT trooper who was shot attempting to serve a search warrant in East St. Louis during the early morning hours Friday has died from his wounds at Saint Louis University Hospital.
Nicholas Hopkins, 33, was a 10-year veteran of the Illinois State Police.
Brendan Kelly, acting director of the ISP and former St. Clair County state’s attorney, said Hopkins died at 6:10 p.m.
“Trooper Hopkins laid down his life while protecting the citizens of the state,” Kelly said from a prepared statement. “We are asking the public to respectfully give consideration to the family of Trooper Hopkins and the ISP while we continue to grieve and work through this tragedy.”
Hopkins graduated from Waterloo High School in the class of 2004, District 5 officials confirmed. He played baseball, basketball and football for the Bulldogs, according to yearbook photos published on social media. Hopkins went on to attend McKendree University in Lebanon. A university spokeswoman confirmed he graduated in 2008.
Hopkins was married with three children. The couple’s eighth wedding anniversary would have been on Aug. 29, according to Hopkins’ Facebook profile.
“It is nearly impossible to express the depth of my sadness and my condolences to the entire Hopkins’ family and his friends and the Illinois State Police family,” Kelly said during a news conference Friday night at Saint Louis University Hospital. “I give my thanks to troopers who performed CPR for an extended period on their fellow trooper to sustain their brother’s life so that his family could see him one last time.”
Hopkins was struck after gunfire broke out when officers attempted to execute a search warrant at a duplex in the 1400 block of North 42nd Street near Caseyville Avenue. Kelly said he is the first SWAT operator in nearly 20 years to die in the line of duty.
“Even in one of the most dangerous corners of this country, he refused to let anyone hold him or the ISP back and refused to hold back his life,” Kelly said. “Even now he continues to serve others. He will donate his organs and his very body to help others.”
‘No longer a threat’
Illiniois State Police said late Friday night that “there is no longer a threat to public safety surrounding the residence” where Hopkins was shot.
Crime scene investigators and investigative agents will continue to process the scene throughout the night, ISP said in a news release.
“ISP is conducting a complete and thorough investigation into this matter which will take time. Once additional information becomes available, the ISP will provide those updates,” according to the news release.
Police surround home
East St. Louis Police, ISP, tactical units and a SWAT team were at the scene at about 5:30 a.m. Other officers transported Hopkins to the hospital.
Three suspects were arrested, but at least one was believed to be still inside the building. Kelly would not identify the suspects pending the ongoing investigation, nor would he discuss details of the search warrant.
During the day, police and K-9 officers entered the duplex by force, but immediately exited again. An armored vehicle knocked windows out of the structure. Smoke or gas billowed from them openings following a loud boom.
Additional attempts to flush the suspect from the building with gas and loud booms, possibly stun grenades, were made throughout the afternoon. Around 5 p.m., officers were hitting the duplex with water from a firehose.
At 7:30 p.m., officers were canvassing the neighborhood door-to-door for information. One was operating a drone above the scene.
Terrence Hargrove Sr., who resides with his family about six houses down from where the Hopkins was shot, said he heard police detonating “concussion bombs,” or stun grenades, at about 5:30 a.m. When he stepped outside to investigate, he saw a street lined with police vehicles.
“Police are everywhere,” said Hargrove, whose son, Terry Hargrove Jr., is a freshman basketball star at Saint Louis University.
Tiffany Brown, who lives next door, was returning home from work in Pontoon Beach, when she found her driveway and property swarming with officers. She said she was detained by an armed officer until it could be confirmed she was not a resident of the duplex. Brown says she hasn’t been allowed inside her house, where her fiance and 10-year-old son remain.
“They won’t even let me go back inside to check on my son,” she said.
By 5:30 p.m., she was still waiting for that chance. Other residents of the neighborhood have returned from work, but are blocked from their home by police barricades.
‘Killings are senseless’
Yolanda Graham, who lives several streets down in the same neighborhood, got emotional as she talked about the shootings that have killed 24 people in East St. Louis this year. Her husband, John Graham, was one of those victims. He was shot on April 27 and died two days later.
“This is sad. It’s just sad. What can we do to save our community to make it better for our children, seniors and neighbors?” she said. “All these killings are just senseless.”
Graham cried as she asked other onlookers Friday morning if they knew the condition of the officer who had been shot.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker was monitoring the standoff from Sparta, where he was attending a bill signing event.
“It is one of the worst jobs you get as governor to get news of the danger that clearly our state troopers get put in every day and then of course to hear someone has been shot,” Pritzker told the Belleville News-Democrat. “He was delivering a warrant. It’s a job troopers have to do every single day. They stand up for us in ways that I think people I don’t think even know.”
Statements from officials
“Today the entire state mourns the loss of ISP South SWAT Trooper Nicholas Hopkins, a young man who dedicated 10 of his 33 years on this earth to protecting the people of Illinois,” Pritzker said in a statement Friday night. “It is the most courageous among us who choose a life of risk so their communities can go about their lives in peace. The state of Illinois stands with Trooper Hopkins’ family and the entire Illinois State Police family as they grieve the loss of another heroic officer.”
U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft of the Southern District of Illinois and St. Clair County State’s Attorney James Gomric also spoke during the Friday night news conference at Saint Louis University Hospital.
Weinhoeft said federal authorities will do everything they can to solve this case.
“We are here to pledge that we will bring every resource that we have to bear to support this investigation, to support the Illinois State Police, support the state’s attorney’s office and to ensure and seek justice in this case,” Weinhoeft said.
“This situation is a terrible, terrible tragedy,” Weinhoeft said. “It reminds us of the risks that law enforcement faces every day and the tremendous courage that is displayed by the men and women of law enforcement who go out and work every day.”
Gomric said the investigation is ongoing.
“Each and every day, law enforcement serves all of us. On this date Trooper Hopkins gave the highest form of service,” Gomric said.
With his voice rising, he added, “We are garnering the facts. Upon our having the facts, justice will be done onto all of those responsible.”
No charges have been filed against the three people arrested Friday. Their names were not released because charges had not been filed.
Other officer deaths
Hopkins’ death marks the third officer killed by gunfire since 2016 in the St. Louis area.
In June, Police Officer Michael Langsdorf was shot and killed after responding to a call at 6240 Page Ave. involving a man attempting to cash a fraudulent check in North St. Louis County. He was an officer of the North County Police Cooperative and previously served in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for 17 years.
In 2016, Officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed while responding to a disturbance in South St. Louis County, where a man shot him point-blank and killed him instantly. Snyder lived in Edwardsville and served the St. Louis County Police Department for four years.
Also, along with Hopkins, two other Illinois State Police troopers have been killed in the line of duty this year.
▪ Trooper Brook Jones-Story, 34, was fatally struck by a tractor-trailer near Freeport on March 28.
▪ Trooper Christopher Lambert, 34, was fatally hit by a car at the scene of a three-vehicle crash in a snowstorm near Chicago on Jan. 12.