Shooter Killed Self with Shotgun; 'He set them up'

Devastated stress management team called in to help emergency responders.


Patrick M. O'Connell | | Friday, July 25, 2008

MAPLEWOOD, Mo. -- The man who killed a Maplewood firefighter and shot two police officers in an ambush attack killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head, police said Wednesday.

The St. Louis County medical examiner's office confirmed Wednesday through dental records that the remains found in the burned shell of the home in the 7400 block of Zephyr Place were those of the homeowner, Mark J. Knobbe, 52.

Further tests showed Knobbe shot himself before fire engulfed his home, police said.

Investigators found barrels from three long guns, one of which police believe was the rifle Knobbe fired at emergency personnel and one the shotgun used to kill himself.

Firefighter Ryan A. Hummert, 22, was killed by one of the rifle shots Monday morning as he and other firefighters worked to put out a burning pickup across the street. Maplewood officer Adam Fite, 28, was seriously injured and Sgt. Michael Martin was hurt when they were struck by the gunfire.

Several witnesses told police they saw Knobbe pile wood into the bed of his 1993 Toyota pickup, then set it on fire about 5:40 a.m. Monday. Knobbe then may have pushed the truck so it rolled across the street and waited for emergency personnel to respond, St. Louis County police spokeswoman Tracy Panus said Wednesday.

"He set them up," Panus said. "That's every indication, that he was trying to ambush emergency personnel."

Officers who surrounded Knobbe's house in the subsequent standoff never fired any shots at the home, Panus said. Witnesses also saw Knobbe setting clothes and drapes on fire inside his home during the standoff, Panus said.

Zephyr Place reopened for traffic Wednesday, and a steady stream of cars rolled past the rubble of Knobbe's house and the damaged house next door. An American flag and red, white and blue plastic flowers were tied to the railing of Knobbe's front steps. A bouquet of flowers had been placed on the steps, and nearby someone had left a single red rose.

At the Maplewood fire station on Manchester Road, firefighters planned for Hummert's funeral services. Firefighters from other area departments are assisting Maplewood during the preparations.

"Outwardly, they'll tell you they're fine, but they're devastated on the inside," Maplewood City Manager Marty Corcoran said of the city's firefighters and police officers. "You can see it in their eyes."

The last few days have been particularly difficult for the four other firefighters who responded to the truck fire when the gunfire that killed Hummert erupted, Corcoran said.

"They're the guys who are really suffering," said Corcoran, a close family friend of the Hummerts whose 31-year-old son is a firefighter in Ferguson. "The ones that were there; they're traumatized."

The Greater St. Louis Region Critical Incident Stress Management team has been called in to work with first responders involved in and affected by the incident, team coordinator Sally Frese said. She said the team has continued to work with emergency workers.

The team is a nonprofit group of mental health workers and emergency workers that since 1991 has helped first responders work through feelings they might suppress during emergency situations.

Visitation for Hummert will be from 3 to 8 p.m. today at Jay B. Smith Funeral Home, 7456 Manchester Road, Maplewood. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Friday at Immaculate Conception Church, 2934 Marshall Avenue, Maplewood. A processional including firetrucks will leave from the church to burial at Sunset Memorial Park.

Elizabethe Holland of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.

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