A fatal shooting led police on an eight-hour manhunt Wednesday that ended when snipers shot and killed a man to save the life of a 3-year-old boy, police said.
Kenneth Knight was killed after he fled a bus stop on the city's south side where he shot and killed Jacqueline Bouvier Hardy, police said.
Hoods pulled over their heads to shield them from the cold, residents in the area of Reed Street and East Pettit Avenue gathered in clusters about 8 a.m. Some smoked cigarettes and others talked on cellphones as they looked toward the northeast corner of the intersection.
There, under a white sheet on the sidewalk, was the body of Hardy, 49. Near her body was her backpack, alongside evidence markers showing the location of the shotgun shell casings.
A few feet away, in the middle of the yellow crime scene tape that ringed the intersection, was a still-running Citilink bus. It was impossible to see inside the bus with the advertisement for a local attorney covering the entire vehicle.
But those inside had been able to see out. Just moments before, Hardy and Knight had been on that bus – riding Route 3, which goes to Canterbury via IPFW.
For reasons unknown, police said, Knight forced Hardy off the bus and shot her dead – in front of bus passengers, children walking to school bus stops and drivers headed to work.
Knight, 45, then fled on foot through the neighborhood, cutting through yards and setting off a daylong search that ended with his death about 4:30 p.m. by snipers.
After days of violence around the city – with multiple shootings and three homicides – Fort Wayne police were quick to point out that Wednesday's shooting was not random and was likely the result of domestic violence.
According to court records, Hardy filed for a protective order Tuesday against Knight, though it did not appear he had ever been served with a copy.
Allen County court records show Knight had a lengthy criminal history, with arrests for burglary, resisting law enforcement and dealing cocaine.
According to the Indiana Department of Correction website, Knight was released from prison just over a year ago, having served a 10-year sentence for possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.
Hardy was also in frequent trouble, with multiple arrests for crimes related to drug abuse – possession of cocaine, possession of paraphernalia and theft.
But it had been several years since her last arrest, a theft case in 2009. She was currently a student at Ravenscroft Beauty College on Stellhorn Road.
By mid-morning, Knight was still at large, in spite of the efforts of police dogs that tracked him to a house at Winter Street and Capitol Avenue. About 10 a.m., SWAT team officers surrounded a house in the 4100 block of Richfield Lane, Knight's last known residence.
Approaching the house in their hostage rescue vehicle and an armored truck, officers then went inside. Finding no one, they left that scene about 11:30 a.m.
About 30 minutes later, police arrived at 3018 Holton Ave., the second of two locations where Knight was believed to be hiding.
As officers arrived, at least two people fled the home, leaving behind an older woman and a 3-year-old child. The older woman later left without the child, police said.
A rescue vehicle and police cars surrounded the home as an armored truck drove back and forth, passing the house several times before coming to a stop nearby.
From a loudspeaker, a man's voice could be heard asking Knight to call 911 and telling him repeatedly that they would not be going away.
Eventually, police made contact with Knight, and for most of the afternoon, he spoke with hostage negotiators, his family and his pastor.
But after a while, as Knight refused to come out of the home or release the boy, police snipers were sent into position.
Nearby, dozens of curious onlookers stood in small groups, talking about the events that had unfolded throughout the day and discussing what might happen to Knight and the young boy inside. Some wrapped themselves in blankets and extra jackets as the standoff continued for nearly four hours in chilly, windy weather.
A woman wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a thin pair of pants shuffled between the groups, accepting hugs and wiping tears from her eyes. The woman, Sherri Billingsley, had seen it all. She lived in the house where Knight was hiding, and several years back, they had dated, she said.
Knight, she said, was the father of her son, and the young boy inside was her 3-year-old grandson.
Billingsley watched as the officers moved closer to the house, tugging at the pocket of her sweatshirt as she slowly shook her head back and forth.
"I'm just afraid I'm going to have to clean this mess up," Billingsley said. "My grandson, he don't even like guns – he just plays with his cars and that's good enough for him.
"…I just hope they don't do it in front of him."
Moments later, a single shot rang out. Two Fort Wayne police snipers each fired one shot simultaneously. Knight was dead, police said.
Nearby, Billingsley fell to her knees in the road.
"No, no, no," she screamed, running between the cars and people who had gathered to witness the hostage situation.
"My baby, my baby," she yelled, calling out for the 3-year-old inside.
Police entered the home and confirmed Knight's death before rescuing the child and carrying him to safety. The child was unharmed.
The two snipers were placed on paid administrative leave as part of police department policy, Chief Rusty York said.
As Billingsley ran from the scene, crying and shouting, a friend shouted, "They've got the baby. He's OK. They have him."
Billingsley covered her eyes with her hands, weeping as she repeated over and over, "That's him. That's my baby. That's him."
Frank Gray and Dan Stockman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.
- To see more photos, click here.
The Allen County Coroner's Office ruled Thursday that Knight's death was a homicide, the 12th in the city and county for 2013.
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