MANHUNT: Wanted driver is charged with murdering Clinton police officer

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CLINTON, Mo. (AP and KY3) -- A wanted man is charged with first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of a police officer in his hometown in western Missouri. The Henry County prosecuting attorney charged Ian McCarthy, 39, with first-degree murder and armed criminal action on Monday morning.

Ian McCarthy/Missouri Highway Patrol

Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Bill Lowe says McCarthy is suspected of killing Clinton Police Officer Gary Michael, 37, late Sunday. Michael died at the hospital in Clinton.

Michael was shot during a traffic stop near the Clinton square about 10:45 p.m. Sunday. Mourners on Monday set up a memorial around a street sign in the grass near where Michael was shot. It included balloons, flowers and stuffed animals.

Lowe says the driver got out of the car and shot at Michael, who was able to return fire. The shooter drove away but crashed two blocks away and ran off. Officers impounded the 2008 Dodge Nitro, which is registered to McCarthy.

Lowe says it's not clear if the driver was shot. Searchers believe McCarthy is on foot and still in the Clinton area, 100 miles north of Springfield on Missouri 13. Officers searched his home during the night. They also had roadblocks on highways and streets leading out of the town. A Highway Patrol helicopter crew was in the air.

Lowe says Michael was on the Clinton police force for less than a year. He says Michael was "heroic right to the end." He was a lifelong resident of Clinton and leaves behind a wife and stepsons.

"It's a tragedy, obviously, for his family. It's a tragedy for Clinton Police Department, but it's a tragedy for this community," Lowe said. "He was doing his job. He was there protecting and serving and that's what we're called to do, and he did it with heroic fashion."

The shooting was on Green Street, about 200 feet west of Second Street. Michael had given a dispatcher a description of a dark gray SUV with a license plate that registered to McCarthy. After the shooting, that SUV hit an embankment on Water Street and the driver fled on foot, according to people who live in the area.

Investigators found surveillance video from a convenience store that showed a man park the Doge Nitro in front of the store, go inside, buy a package of cigar wrappers, leave the store, talk to a witness in the parking lot and drive away. The witness identified the driver as McCarthy, according to the probable cause statement used as the basis of the murder charge.

Surveillance video from another convenience store shows the Nitro going north on Second and then west on Green, where Michael pulled up behind it and activated his emergency lights. The two vehicles then drove out of sight of the camera, so the store camera did not record the traffic stop and shooting, according to the probable cause statement.

Court records show McCarthy has been wanted on a warrant in New Hampshire since October 2013. The records say the warrant was issued after McCarthy failed to appear for sentencing for a disorderly conduct charge. The records show McCarthy had an extensive criminal background in that state, with 20 counts ranging from misdemeanor traffic violations to criminal charges filed between 1997 and 2011.

Missouri court records indicate McCarthy pleaded guilty in November 2013 to misdemeanor driving without a valid license. In July 2015, he was charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. Court records don't indicate the outcome of that case.

The historic square has many businesses surrounding the Henry County Courthouse. The sheriff's department, the 9-1-1 emergency call center, the library, and other government buildings are near the shooting scene.

Radio dispatch audio offers insight into the chaos that followed the fatal shooting. The Kansas City Star on Monday obtained an audio recording of police dispatches in the moments surrounding the shooting.

Ten seconds after the traffic stop came word that shots were fired and an officer was struck. An officer requested an ambulance "immediately." An emergency worker advised that the officer had been shot twice in the chest and was in cardiac arrest.