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No charges against conservation officer

State's attorney: Officer-involved fatal shooting on I-88 'justified'

Published: Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 10:56 a.m. CST • Updated: Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 1:25 a.m. CST
Caption
(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
An Illinois State Police trooper walks past the scene on Interstate 88 near Rock Falls where a driver from Ohio had pinned another trooper against his vehicle before being shot and killed by a state conservation officer on Nov. 22.

MORRISON – No charges will be filed against the state conservation police officer who shot and killed a motorist on Interstate 88 west of Rock Falls on Nov. 22, Whiteside County State's Attorney Trish Joyce announced Friday.

After an investigation into the death of Shane D. Cataline, 30, of Toledo, Ohio, Joyce issued a written decision that she believes the shooting by Conservation Police Officer Steven Francisko was "justified." She said deadly force was appropriate because Cataline was using a van in "a manner which was likely to cause imminent death or great bodily harm" to an Illinois State Police officer who Cataline had pinned.

The seven-page written decision includes a detailed description of the scene that day, as reconstructed by Joyce from scores of photographs, investigative reports, interviews, videos, and more.

According to Joyce's statement of facts from that day:

On Nov. 22, 2013, the opening day of shotgun season for hunting deer, Francisko was patrolling rural Whiteside County when he decided to investigate a van stopped on the side of the road.

After approaching the van, Francisko identified himself and had a short conversation with Cataline, who said he was tired since he had been driving all of the day before. Cataline said he was heading to San Francisco. Francisko thought Cataline seemed confused.

At 10:50 a.m., ISP Trooper Luke Kuehl arrived as backup for Francisko. Kuehl and Francisko talked briefly at Francisko's car before the two approached Cataline's van together.

They found Cataline on the phone, and Francisko caught the tail end of the conversation. According to Francisko, Cataline said something like, "This isn't gonna end well."

Francisko was unaware, but Cataline had placed a 911 call, and at the time was speaking with the Rock Island County sheriff's office.

Francisko thought that what Catline had said on the phone was strange, and reminded Catline that he was a police officer.

The conversation continued for about 2 minutes.

"It seems like you're awfully overly nervous here talking to me," Francisko said. "And I just don't understand why."

Francisko then asked to search Cataline's car. Cataline said no, and that he wanted to go home.

Francisko suggested that Cataline get some rest, and at 10:53 a.m., told him he was free to leave.

After the three men left, an ISP dispatcher told Kuehl about the 911 call that Cataline had placed, in which he said, "I'm in a lot of trouble right now. ... I think I'm going to be disappearing or something," before hanging up.

Kuehl then decided to check on Cataline again, and Francisko responded as backup.

Based on Cataline's statement that he wanted to go home, the two headed east on I-88 until they spotted Cataline's van once more.

Kuehl saw Cataline commit two minor traffic violations before pulling him over. Kuehl parked behind Cataline's stopped van, and Francisko parked in front of it.

At 11:11 a.m., the men approached Cataline's van and Kuehl opened the driver's side door. They said they needed to talk about the 911 call Cataline had made, and told Cataline to turn off his vehicle and hand over the keys. He failed to comply, and they told Cataline two more times to turn off his car and hand over the keys. He still didn't.

At 11:12, Cataline threw his van into reverse, causing Kuehl to lose his grip on the door and fall back into the eastbound lane of traffic. Cataline then, according to Francisko, "turned the wheel all the way to the left, and floored it," making an abrupt U-turn into oncoming traffic. Francisko ran back to his patrol vehicle, as did Kuehl.

Kuehl reached inside, and attempted to make a call on the radio when Cataline rammed his van into Kuehl's squad car at such a high rate of speed that it pushed the car off the shoulder and into the ditch. Kuehl was pinned, immobilized, and had blood coming from his mouth.

Francisko could hear Cataline's car revving and the tires squealing. He saw a cloud of smoke coming from the tires as Cataline continued to accelerate, with Kuehl still pinned.

Francisko then jumped onto the hood of Kuehl's car and fired five rounds into the closed driver's side window of Cataline's van.

After the fifth shot, the acceleration lessened. All the while, Kuehl was screaming for help.

Francisko then pulled Kuehl — bleeding from the mouth and arm — from between the two cars and walked him to the bed of his patrol truck.

Francisko then radioed for help before checking on Cataline, who appeared to be dead.

After turning off Cataline's car, Francisko returned to Kuehl, who was complaining of his hips hurting.

"I thought you were getting killed," Francisko said. "I had to shoot him."

"I know it," Kuehl said. "I thought I was gonna die, too."

When investigators arrived, they found Cataline slumped in the driver's seat of his van, his right foot near the gas pedal, and his left left propped on the dashboard between the steering wheel and driver's door.

This, investigators said, indicated Cataline had prepared himself for impact.

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