MPD confirms homicide suspect found dead in Kwik Trip bathroom
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – The man found dead in the bathroom of a convenience store where he had exchanged gunfire with a police officer was the suspect accused of killing a woman with whom he was in a relationship two days earlier, the Madison Police Department confirmed during a Monday news conference.
Just hours before his death, MPD identified Justin Kopmeyer as a homicide suspect and warned the public that he should be considered armed and dangerous. Kopmeyer, 39, was accused of killing Kristin Schmitt, who was found dead in an apartment on Richard Street after a neighbor asked MPD officers to do a welfare check on her.
The neighbor reported hearing a loud argument coming from the apartment and grew concerned when she did not see the woman afterwards. When officers arrived, they found Schmitt’s body, Barnes continued, adding that she appeared to have been strangled to death.
Two days later, after naming Kopmeyer as the suspect, officers caught up to him at the Kwik Trip, in the 3500 block of E. Washington Ave., where he and a police officer exchanged gunfire, the MPD had reported. A second officer had also fired a Taser, in an attempt to detain Kopmeyer, who retreated into the convenience store’s bathroom. A Wisconsin Dept. of Justice statement echoed the MPD statement.
According to Barnes, an MPD officer and the man exchanged gunfire and a second police officer had attempted to stop the man with a Taser. A later statement from the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice reinforced that description, adding that after the exchange the individual went into the bathroom. Officers heard more two gunshots and the man was found dead in the bathroom.
Barnes noted that he thinks the officer’s bullet struck Kopmeyer, but he does not believe that was the fatal shot. He added the medical examiner’s office will make the final determination.
The officers involved in the confrontation have been placed on administrative leave, per MPD policy. The state Justice Department’s Division of Criminal Investigation has taken over the inquiry into the shooting because an officer had been involved. No other injuries were reported as a result of the shooting. Barnes said one of the officers involved is a 13-year veteran while the other has been with the police department for four years. Both of them are members of the SWAT team and both had recently undergone de-escalation training.
During the attempt to take the suspect into custody and the subsequent investigation, a host of police cruisers were seen around the Kwik Trip. A nearby business and NBC15 News viewers reported seeing over a dozen police vehicles after 4 p.m. A portion of E. Washington Ave. was also blocked off.
Witnesses who were in the area at the time of the shooting said it started out like any normal Friday afternoon.
“All of the sudden it got quiet, like really quiet and I just saw people running out of Kwik Trip heading towards the car wash,” said witness Amir Morning-Turner.
Morning-Turner said for two hours, it seemed like the only vehicles that passed were police.
“The quiet traffic is when you know it’s serious,” said Latif Tanner, who also witnessed the event. “On East Wash, Friday at 4 that’s when you know it’s serious.”
During Monday’s news conference, Barnes acknowledged the trauma of what happened for the community at multiple levels, including the Kwik Shop customers who fled the store with their arms raised as it happened. He noted that the effects extend to the witnesses who were outside at the time and the people driving by who were seeing such a large police presence in their community.
Barnes also invited Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) executive director Shannon Berry to talk discuss domestic abuse and prevention. Berry began by noting that southern Wisconsin has recently seen to recent deaths, including Schmitt’s, related to domestic violence.
“Domestic violence is an epidemic everywhere, including here in Dane County,” she said.
She urged anyone who is worried that someone they know may be a victim of domestic abuse to reach out to them and let them know people care about them. If someone needs to find resources to help make that approach, Berry said they can call DAIS at 608-251-4445.
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