CHESTER — A Chester County man who loved ones say tried to change his life died Friday morning when he killed himself after trying to shoot at a deputy, authorities said.
Maurice Andropilous Jeter, 25, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after pointing a gun at an experienced ... seasoned sheriffs deputy, said Chester Sheriff Alex Underwood. Jeter died after refusing to stop for the deputy, which sparked a car chase.
After an autopsy, Chester County Coroner Terry Tinker ruled Jeters death a suicide.
The deputy, identified as Albert Crawford Jr., 46, has been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division. He has been working at the Chester County Sheriffs Office since January after several years working for the city of Chester Police Department.
A preliminary investigation shows that at about 12:35 a.m., Jeter, driving a red truck, sped behind Crawford, who drove an unmarked police truck, and then went around him, Underwood said. Crawford turned on the trucks blue lights and tried to stop Jeter.
Jeter kept driving, police say. A chase ensued down S.C. 72 until Jeter turned onto Craigbrow Road, drove into a residential neighborhood and parked the car at 968 Shallowbrook Road, where he lived with his girlfriend of seven years.
He ran out of the car, leaving the door open, Underwood said, and headed for a storage building in the backyard. Crawford followed but, as he pulled into the driveway, Jeter took out a handgun and pointed it at the officer.
Crawford slammed on the brakes, inadvertently hitting the red truck with its door still open and music blaring, Underwood said. He got out of the car as Jeter attempted to fire the weapon.
The gun jammed.
Crawford ordered Jeter to drop his weapon at least three times, but Jeter continued to point it at him. The officer took out his Glock .40 caliber pistol and fired several shots as he moved around the rear of his vehicle to avoid being shot, Underwood said.
The bullets fired at Jeter left several holes on the exterior and interior of the wooden shed that Tonya Ehlinger said her boyfriend treated as his man cave.
As shots were being fired, another deputy arrived. By that time, deputies say Jeter took the gun and shot himself. Crawford was not injured.
By Friday afternoon, SLED agents had finished interviewing Crawford and returned to Columbia, said Sheriffs Office Maj. Mary Anne Tolbert.
SLED spokesman Thom Berry said he was unable to comment on the incident and could not say when the investigation might be finished.
Deputies said they expect the investigation to wrap up within the next week. Meanwhile, Crawford will receive counseling from SLEDs Law Enforcement Assistance Program.
It doesnt make sense
Tonya Ehlinger was sound asleep when gunshots in her backyard jolted her awake. She looked outside and saw a deputy walking towards the shed. Then, she heard him shout profanities.
More officers arrived and, in minutes, her yard was surrounded in crime scene tape.
Friday afternoon, she surveyed the spot where her boyfriend died. She pointed out at least seven bullet holes apparently fired from the outside towards the shed.
None of those bullets are believed to have hit Jeter, authorities said.
It doesnt make sense, she said. There are still a lot of gray areas.
Jeter was our family, she said. He would lay down his soul...his life for my family.
Still, he had his demons most of them at the end of a bottle, she said.
Hes not suicidal. My grandbabies are his grandbabies. He loves these children, she said. I have a hard time grasping that hed kill himself knowing those same grandchildren were in their beds only feet away.
For hours, the crime scene remained uncovered. Ehlingers daughter, Stephanie Keenan, also awoke when gunshots went off. She lives only feet from her mothers home in a mobile home towards the back of the familys Shallowbrook Road property.
As investigators collected shell casings, she left her home to retrieve her 4-year-old son, who was spending the night at Ehlingers house. Police told her to walk around the police tape and to the front door. As she trekked alone, she found Jeter her best friend dead on the ground.
His head lay between the threshold of the shed and the grass. His feet were still inside. A tiny bullet hole jetted through the ceiling.
A partially-finished beer lay on the table. His favorite biker jacket was draped over the chair he usually sat in.
Etched with a black marker at the corner of the sheds door frame are the words: Maurice a.k.a. Trouble.
Life was not easy for Jeter, who had a hard family life, felt unjustly profiled by police because he dated an older white woman and had trouble securing a job until recently, Keenan said.
After more than a year in prison, he began turning his life around, she said. Court records show Jeter was sent to prison for resisting arrest; he was released in 2010.
As her sons, 2 and 4, ran around their living room and played with their toys, Keenan wiped away tears, struggling not to blame herself for Jeters death and trying her best to bore the memory of his body from her mind.
She believes Jeters suicide weapon was her gun. SLED agents told Ehlinger and Keenan that the gun Jeter used to shoot himself was stolen. Keenan believes the weapon may have been the gun she reported missing in August.
Had Jeter told her he took the gun, I wouldnt even be mad...I never would have pressed charges, she said. Hes always come to me if he had a problem. He was my best friend...the truest friend I ever had.
Deputies said Jeter drove Ehlingers red truck with a suspended license. But, that wouldnt drive Jeter to suicide, Keenan said. Hes been chased by cops in the past.
I understand he wouldnt want to go back to jail, but we wouldnt have let him just sit there, she said. I know hes made mistakes in life, in his past. I dont think he was fully over it.
Those mistakes include a 2009 conviction for driving under the influence and resisting arrest, and pending charges for driving under suspension and public disorderly conduct, according to state court records.
The good stuff hes done overcomes the bad, she said.
Jeter cut her grass and changed her oil. He went grocery shopping with her to help keep her sons calm in public, and he was the only person who would join her for hours to watch a marathon of the South Park television show.
He leaves behind a daughter, but he treated Keenans sons like his own, she said. He was especially close to her 4-year-old son, who ran in circles and showed off scratches from his pet cat.
Keenans question: What do you tell a 4-year-old when he starts asking questions?