KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man accused of kidnapping his girlfriend and their 10-year-old daughter then killing a man during an attempted carjacking was shot to death following a police chase through Missouri and Illinois, authorities said Wednesday.
The chase began Tuesday evening in Jefferson City, Missouri, and ended about three hours later in Greenville, Illinois, after sheriff’s deputies used stop sticks to deflate the tires on Leslie Austin’s SUV, allowing the girlfriend and child to escape. Authorities said Austin, 39, fired multiple shots during and after the chase, but do not yet know if he shot himself or was shot and killed by law enforcement.
Austin’s 33-year-old girlfriend, Danielle Smith, was shot and wounded several times, and has been hospitalized in critical condition, Illinois State Police said in a news release. The daughter wasn’t hurt.
Jefferson City police Lt. David Williams said the girlfriend had a restraining order against Austin.
Little information has been released about the circumstances of the abduction. Officers responding to reports of gunfire in a Jefferson City parking lot around 7:40 p.m. found spent shell casings and broken glass, Williams said. Witnesses who called 911 said they saw the SUV speeding away after the shots were fired.
Not knowing of the abduction, a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper in Union, about 75 miles away, attempted to stop Austin for a registration violation around 9 p.m., Patrol Cpl. Justin Wheatley said. Austin took off and blew through several stop lights. The patrol called off the pursuit, Wheatley said.
A Franklin County sheriff’s deputy reinitiated the pursuit after learning the vehicle was wanted, Wheatley said.
Patrol troopers caught up with Austin again about 25 miles away on Interstate 44 in the western St. Louis suburb of Eureka. They pursued him until he drove across a bridge into Illinois, where Illinois State Police Troopers took up the chase, Wheatley said.
At around 10:30 p.m., Bond County sheriff’s deputies deployed the stop sticks on Illinois 140 near Greenville, and the girlfriend and child were able to escape the slowing SUV, Illinois State Police said in a news release.
Austin then tried to carjack a vehicle from Gregory Price, shooting and killing the 67-year-old man from Florissant, Missouri. Austin apparently decided against taking Price’s car and failed in an attempt to carjack a second vehicle, choosing instead to continue on in his damaged SUV, state police said.
He eventually stopped the vehicle and was shot and killed in a shootout, although police said it was unclear if he was shot by an officer or the gunshot was self-inflicted.
Austin had convictions in Missouri for misdemeanor theft, domestic assault, tampering with a motor vehicle and resisting arrest.