Today marks the fourth anniversary of the shooting of Hamilton Police Officer Chad Stafford on a freezing Saturday morning.
Stafford responded just after 7 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2014, to a report of an armed man firing shots into the air in a quiet neighborhood. Stafford spotted the suspect, identified as Brandon Keeler, walking along the 1100 block of Sipple Avenue.
When Stafford got out of his car, Keeler shot at him. Stafford ducked behind a car, but the bullet grazed his head. Wounded, the firearms instructor and 16-year veteran of the Hamilton Police Department returned fire, striking Keeler dead with multiple gunshots.
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Keeler, who left notes indicating he wanted to die at the hands of police, was shooting a civilian version of an AK-47 rifle and had plenty of ammunition.
Stafford fully recovered and returned to work on March 20, 2014. He is still patrolling the streets of the city.
“It was another Saturday morning. I thought, I am going to tell him to put down the gun and he is going to, but he didn’t,” Stafford said.
He said he remembers returning fire and “I watched him lay down in the snow. I continued to cover him until the other officers arrived.”
Hamilton Public Safety Director Scott Scrimizzi, who was police chief in February 2014, said officer shootings do bring back that horrible call he received on Feb. 15, 2014.
“I pulled up convinced that he was dead,” Scrimizzi said. “They had the tape up … I see that we have a crime scene set up and there is a body there and I am convinced it is Chad.”
Stafford saved lives that morning, his own, civilians and other officers who were responding, Scrimizzi said.
Scrimizzi added Stafford “clearly had an angel sitting on his shoulder that day.”