O'Fallon, Mo., man charged in police chase that killed Caruthersville officer

2011-08-16T14:14:00Z 2013-01-21T12:17:06Z O'Fallon, Mo., man charged in police chase that killed Caruthersville officerBY JOEL CURRIER • jcurrier@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8256 stltoday.com

An O'Fallon, Mo., man was charged today in a police chase in Pemiscot County that killed a Caruthersville police officer.

Deonta J. Williamson, 29, of the 2000 block of Williamstown Drive, was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of armed criminal action, first-degree assault, motor vehicle tampering and resisting arrest by fleeing. He is being held without bail at the Pemiscot County Jail.

Officer Evan Burns, 28, was killed about 12:30 a.m. after Williamson, whom O'Fallon police wanted in an assault Monday night, rammed his police cruiser, authorities said.

Pemiscot County is in Missouri's bootheel about 200 miles south of St. Louis.

Sheriff Tommy Greenwell said deputies spotted a 2002 Cadillac Escalade heading south on Interstate 55 north of Hayti after O'Fallon police had notified authorities there that Williamson may be driving the stolen Escalade in the area and that he may have a weapon.

Greenwell said in a news release the man "allegedly set his stepfather on fire and attempted to burn the home."

O'Fallon Officer Diana Damke said the alleged burning attempts occurred in the 2000 block of Williamstown Drive around 9:30 p.m. Monday. She said the suspect tried to light his stepfather on fire inside his house as well as starting a fire in the garage before leaving in his stepfather's vehicle.

After deputies tried to stop the fleeing Escalade, the Williamson headed east on Highway 84 toward Caruthersville, authorities said. Two Caruthersville police officers driving separate cars tried to stop the Escalade using spike strips but were unable to set them before the suspect struck their cars.

Pemiscot County Sheriff's Lt. Ryan Holder said the pursuit lasted about six miles and approached speeds of about 60 mph.

Williamson rammed the two Caruthersville police cars, killing Burns and injuring Officer Richard Altice, police said. Burns, a 2-year veteran of the police department, was pronounced dead at the crash scene.

Altice was taken to a hospital in Hayti for treatment. His condition was not available Tuesday.

The Missouri Highway Patrol is investigating the incident.

Charges are also expected in St. Charles County.

Williamson's mother, Rhonda Williamson, said Tuesday that her son suffered from mental illness for which she struggled to find him professional help.

On Monday night, she said, her son set fire to some towels inside the house. The blaze awoke his stepfather, who had fallen asleep on the couch while watching television. She said her son had also ignited towels in the garage.

"A lof of things don't make sense when you're dealing with an adult child with mental illness," she said.

Deonta Williamson split time living in O'Fallon with her as well as her sister's house in the bootheel, his mother said. She said he has suffered from depression, paranoia and post-traumatic stress stemming from losing his right arm to a gunshot wound at a friend's house in the bootheel about six years ago.

"I can stress it enough how saddened we are," she said. "I just want to give my condolences to the family of the officer that lost his life."

Williamson's stepfather was treated for minor burns, police said.

Shane Anthony of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect age of the fleeing driver, provided by Pemiscot County authorities. The story has been corrected.

Joel Currier covers breaking news for STLtoday.com and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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