"You guys knew you had this coming": Prosecutor charges homeless man for assault on Springfield officer
The Greene County Prosecutor filed charges against a homeless man for striking and seriously injuring a Springfield Police Department officer.
Jon Routh faces charges first-degree assault and armed criminal action. Officer Mark Priebe suffered serious injuries in the incident outside the Springfield Police Department headquarters in downtown Springfield Tuesday morning. Officer Priebe remains hospitalized.
Investigators say police confronted Routh after he drove around the parking lot in circles in a white Isuzu Trooper. Surveillance video also captured Routh urinating on the department's front doors. Investigators say the video shows Officer Priebe confronting Routh. He then drove into Officer Priebe, dragging him until he hit a barrier outside the department. Another officer fired a shot at Routh's vehicle, hitting him.
When officers pulled Routh from the SUV, he made a statement, "you guys knew you had this coming."
Routh told investigators he had just moved to Springfield, after living in Austin, Texas, Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon and Colorado Springs, Colorado recently. When investigators asked him what upset him, he stated, "the whole campaign is to scare the (bleep) out of me." He then said he was being mentally harassed by people the FBI or police were using to target him. He said he drove around the "cop shop" to show he meant business. Routh told investigators he had no intention to harm anyone. Routh told investigators he "blacked out" when he saw an officer draw a gun.
Investigators confiscated Routh's cell phone. They say just two hours before the incident, he texted two people, "apparently I can't get a job unless I loose Lillith ... I'm going to run a cop over I think."
Routh was treated Tuesday for a gunshot wound and then booked into the Greene County Jail.
A day in, the news is still tough for fellow officers to take. "Why would it happen to anybody, but of all people, why Mark?" says Michael Walker, President of the Springfield Police Officers Association.
Walker says he’s known Mark Priebe for nearly a decade, and Priebe is well known for his work with the Special Olympics.
"Mark Priebe is really the kind of officer that made me want to be a police officer," says Walker.
But Walker says many officers have felt a lot of hatred in the last couple of weeks, as anger against police has spread across the country.
"We don't keep bad cops here. We don't," says Walker.
Court documents indicate Routh believed the FBI or police department were sending people to mentally harass him. Police found a text on his phone from just two hours before the incident that included the words "I'm going to run over a cop I think."
Walker says, "The problem is that people that are mentally ill, in the way that those statements seem to indicate, are very easily persuaded by outside influences, with all the hate."
Staff at the Veterans Coming Home Center saw Routh just a few days ago. "He would come in, check his mail, and then leave," says team leader Quinton Forester.
When they temporarily misplaced a document, his anger was obvious. "He's cussing up a storm, treating us very rudely," says Forester.
Routh admitted to circling the police station for nearly an hour to let police know he “meant business.” Walker believes his anger was targeted at bad cops.
"We don't have those kind of issues here in Springfield," says Walker. "Especially with guys like Mark Priebe. He didn't deserve this."