Deputy shot: Bulletproof vest saves life; suspects sought

A Pottawatomie County sheriff’s deputy was shot several times during a traffic stop Wednesday evening, with his bullet-proof vest saving him from serious injuries. A search for the suspects was ongoing late Wednesday night. The deputy who was shot and who returned fire was identified as Deputy Joe Leeds, the department’s K-9 handler. He was taken by REACT EMS ambulance to Unity Health Center, where he was treated and released. Leeds then returned to the area of the shooting, where he was helping deputies gather evidence. Sheriff’s Capt. Travis Palmer said the shooting occurred as Leeds was initiating a traffic stop on a mid-90s model red Chevrolet pickup at the intersection of New Hope Road and Patterson Road, which is located two miles south of the Bethel Acres Fire station at Hardesty and Patterson roads. Palmer said as the deputy exited his patrol vehicle to approach the truck, an individual, reported to be a white male passenger, slid open the glass door on the back of the truck, pointing a gun at the deputy and firing four shots, all which struck Leeds in the chest. The deputy’s bulletproof vest prevented serious injury. Palmer said the deputy’s bullets may have struck the pickup. The truck reportedly began to drive off and Palmer said as Leeds got back in his sheriff’s unit to pursue the truck, he was forced to stop because of his injuries. Pottawatomie County deputies, working with Cleveland County officers, began a search for the suspects and went to a residence in Cleveland County to check out a truck, but Palmer said it turned out to be a false lead. He also said another vehicle behind a house on Waco Road, closer to the crime scene, was checked out, but it didn’t result in any positive leads either. Palmer said officers believe the shots were fired at the deputy from a .22-caliber pistol. Authorities secured the crime scene, looking for any possible evidence, such as shell casings from the suspect’s gun and casings from the deputy’s firearm. Palmer said the red extended cab pickup truck was believed to have three suspects in it. The shooting occurred just before 8 p.m. Palmer said officers would spend the remainder of the night looking for any clues and further evidence. A command post was set up late Wednesday at the Bethel Fire Station at Hardesty and Patterson Roads, and a number of officers from various county, local and state law enforcement agencies were assisting in the search for the suspects. As Palmer worked the scene, he thanked all the assisting agencies. Anyone with information about the suspects or suspect pickup should call the sheriff’s office at 273-1727.