Fierce gun battle in Oklahoma ends with fugitive dead

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) " A fierce gun battle with Oklahoma troopers left a homicide suspect dead and ended a weeklong manhunt for the man suspected in a string of violent crimes across the state, including the killing of two relatives and the shooting of three law enforcement officers.

After a tip from a farmer led authorities on Sunday to a camp site near Hammon in far western Oklahoma, the manhunt intensified for Michael Dale Vance Jr., who had posted two Facebook Live videos on Oct. 24 documenting his run from police, said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Paul Timmons.

Several troopers were chasing Vance, who was driving a stolen flatbed pickup truck, when the vehicle went off the road near Leedey, 130 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.

"He exited the vehicle and engaged our troopers in a pretty fierce gun battle," Timmons said. "It's probably safe to say he (Vance) was hit more than once."

Vance was pronounced dead at the scene, and authorities plan to release dashboard-camera video of the shooting during a press conference on Tuesday, Timmons said.

Earlier Sunday, Vance shot and wounded Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sander after Sander stopped a pickup truck to warn the driver about a chain dragging behind it.

"The driver of the truck stopped and exited the vehicle shooting an assault rifle," said Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown. "The sheriff was shot in the shoulder and arm as he returned fire."

Oklahoma Highway Patrol air units in the area were able to spot the vehicle, and a chase ensued, Timmons said.

Sander underwent surgery Monday morning and is recovering from his injuries, which are not life threatening, said Dewey County office deputy Judy Junkins.

Timmons said the authorities were tipped off to Vance's whereabouts by a farmer who spotted a vehicle in his field that matched the description of the car the fugitive was thought to be driving.

"The vehicle was covered with brush and tumbleweeds," Timmons said. "It appears that he had been camped out there for some time."

Also on Monday, authorities charged three acquaintances of Vance, 34-year-old Danny Roach of Oklahoma City, 36-year-old April Harden, and 33-year-old Reginald Moore, with aiding Vance after he had shot and wounded two Wellston police officers and killed two relatives.

Roach provided Vance with bandages, an assault rifle and ammunition last week after Vance came to his home in Oklahoma City, said Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel.

"Roach admitted he was aware that Vance had just been in a shootout with law enforcement, and he also knew that Vance had just killed two people," Whetsel said.

All three were charged Monday with two counts of accessory to felony murder after the fact, and Roach was charged with two counts of possession of a firearm after a felony conviction. Roach and Moore each also face two counts of shooting with intent to kill because they provided the weapon Vance used in the shooting of the Dewey County sheriff and of a man near Sayre during an attempted carjacking.

Court records don't indicate if any of the three has been assigned an attorney.

Vance was wanted on multiple charges, including two counts of first-degree murder. The hunt began after he shot and wounded two police officers on Oct. 23 in Wellston, 35 miles northeast of Oklahoma City, authorities said.

Vance, 38, was suspected of shooting a woman and stealing her vehicle at a mobile home park near Wellston, then driving about 8 miles to his relatives' mobile home in Luther and killing them.

Ronald Everett Wilkson, 55, had been shot and had stab wounds to his neck "consistent with an attempt to sever his head," an arrest affidavit said. Valerie Kay Wilkson, 54, had similar neck wounds along with defensive wounds on her arms, the affidavit stated.

Whetsel has described the deaths of the Wilksons as a "rage killing" and said Vance had likely developed a list of potential targets connected to a pending sexual assault case filed against him. Vance had been scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 7 to face felony child sex abuse charges after a 15-year-old girl accused him of sexual assault.

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Associated Press writer Jill Bleed in Little Rock, Arkansas, contributed to this report. Greg McCune reported from Chicago.

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Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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