Police officer arrested in Illinois, Indiana shootings that killed 1, wounded 2 others

Friday, October 8, 2010

Police officer arrested in Ill., Ind. shootings

LYNWOOD, Ill. — The arrest of a small-town police officer for the seemingly random shootings of three people surprised his family and neighbors Friday even as it brought relief to residents on the Illinois-Indiana border where the shootings took place.

Brian Dorian, 37, was arrested early Friday after a two-day manhunt for a disheveled gunman who had approached his victims and asked about honey bees or construction material before pulling a gun. One man was killed and two others wounded.

Dorian is an officer with the Lynwood Police Department, 30 miles south of Chicago, not far from where the shootings took place. He was arrested at his home in Crete, Ill., on a murder warrant and is being held on $2.5 million bail in a jail in Joliet, said Chuck Pelkie, a spokesman for the Will County state’s attorney’s office.

A hearing was set for Tuesday, Will County sheriff’s department spokesman Pat Barry said.

Robin Schmitz, a close neighbor of Dorian’s, said she saw him the day before the arrest and didn’t detect anything unusual. He told her he was preparing for a college reunion over the weekend and asked if she would look after his house.

“I’m floored. I don’t believe he did it,” Schmitz said.

Dorian encountered some problems in 2006 after being convicted for speeding after a traffic accident in which his vehicle hit a truck driven by a teenager, who died. The teen’s family had pushed for more serious charges against Dorian, who was off duty at the time.

But Schmitz said he “seemed to have gotten over the accident” and never showed any signs of being “mentally unbalanced.”

“He didn’t seem freaked out at all,” when she saw him two days after this week’s shootings, Schmitz said.

Dorian’s father, interviewed by the Associated Press at his home in a trailer park in Lynwood, adamantly denied his son was involved in the shootings.

“Brian is not going to walk up and shoot anyone,” said John Dorian, 71, who works as a night security guard. “They better be out looking for this guy (the gunman). He’s going to do it again.”

John Dorian said his son was a high school and college baseball player and a Boston Red Sox fan who once applied to join the U.S. Secret Service, but didn’t get in. He said he had never had trouble with the law and was “bothered” by the fatal accident but got over it.

He said his son had a .40 caliber handgun issued by the police department. John Dorian said his son had been on medical leave for a year because of a shoulder injury, and expressed doubt that his son could have handled a gun.

Eugene Williams, mayor of Lynwood, a town of about 7,400 people on the Illinois-Indiana border, confirmed that Dorian has been on medical leave with the injured shoulder since October 2009.

He said he was told last week that Dorian would not be returning to duty soon. He also said he knew the officer casually and, until Friday morning, knew of no problems with or concerns about him, other than his injured shoulder.

“He seems like a regular guy to me,” Williams said. “It’s so disappointing to say that because you always wish you could have picked out something (but) he was always polite, just like the rest of the guys.”

The apparently random shootings had unnerved a broad swath of towns along the Illinois-Indiana border.

The trouble began with the first shooting about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at a work site in Illinois. One of the victims, Rolando Alonso, 45, of Hammond, Ind., was shot fatally in the head while working for a construction company near Beecher, Ill. Another worker, Joshua Garza, 19, of Dyer, Ind., was wounded. A third worker escaped into a cornfield.

Later Tuesday, a farmer, Keith Dahl, 64, was wounded near Lowell, Ind.

According to a former county prosecutor involved in the 2006 case, Dorian was driving more than 80 mph in a 55 mph zone when 17-year-old Dylan Drapeau pulled his car out into the path of Dorian’s pickup truck. Dorian, who did not have a stop sign, attempted to avoid a collision but could not, said Gregory DeBord, the former prosecutor.

Drapeau’s family pushed for prosecutors to charge Dorian with reckless homicide, but DeBord said an investigation that included an accident reconstruction determined the only thing Dorian could be charged with was speeding.

There was no indication that either of the two drivers had alcohol or drugs in their systems, and Drapeau failed to yield to traffic when he pulled his car into the intersection, DeBord said.

In 2008, the then chief of police in Lynwood defended the investigation into the accident and the conclusions. David Palmer told the Chicago Tribune that Dorian admitted he was speeding and that he was doing so in an effort to rush for repairs after the “check engine” light started flashing.

After the accident, Dorian said he received harassing phone calls and threats that left him fearing for his life, said Schmitz, the neighbor. She said he was clearly shaken. “But, she added, “he seemed to have gotten over the accident.”

Just a few miles from Dorian’s home, Dylan Drapeau’s parents, Kenneth and Sherry Drapeau, stood on their driveway Friday evening talking with neighbors about the arrest. It dredged up bitter memories of their son’s death, Sherry Drapeau said. Her husband stood nearby with his arms folded.

“Who would have thought that Dorian’s name would come up all these years later on something like this,” she said, tears in her eyes. “We’re in shock.”

“If things had happened differently all those years ago maybe this wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “We feel so bad for the victims’ families.”

Dorian never showed remorse for the accident that killed her son and never apologized, she said.

Associated Press Writers Carla K. Johnson and Don Babwin contributed to this report from Chicago.

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