NORMAL — An off-duty Chenoa police officer working as a security guard at a grocery store in Normal fired the shots that wounded a would-be robber March 11 at a Kroger store in Normal.
The suspect in the armed robbery attempt remains hospitalized with multiple gunshot wounds he suffered when he confronted part-time Chenoa officer Andrew Smith with what was later found to be an air pistol.
McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Workman said Thursday he expects to complete a review of final reports on the shooting in the next few days.
“We will review the total aspects of the incident, including the legal justification for the shooting and the criminal aspects for the person involved in the robbery attempt. It is not considered an officer-involved shooting because the officer was not on duty,” said Workman.
The name of the suspect, who is expected to remain in the hospital several more days, has not been released.
The March 11 incident was the third time this year the store at 1550 E. College Ave. has been hit by armed robbers. On Jan. 29 and Feb. 16, a suspect displayed a weapon and demanded cash from store employees.
In the most recent incident, the suspect pointed a weapon directly at the security guard, who fired his weapon several times, according to police. The man was armed with an air pistol, Normal Police Chief Rick Bleichner said.
Police had not disclosed whether the shooting victim is a suspect in all three incidents.
The gun Smith fired during the incident is at the Normal Police Department as evidence in the attempted robbery, said Bleichner.
Smith is on administrative leave from the Chenoa department until the shooting investigation is complete, said Chenoa Police Chief Travis Cornwall. Unlike many departments that require officers to receive permission for secondary jobs, Chenoa does not require part-time officers to receive permission, said Cornwall, who did not know when the officer started with Kroger.
Smith started work at the Chenoa department in December shortly after his termination from the McLean County Sheriff’s Department. A Dec. 6 disciplinary report obtained by The Pantagraph through a Freedom of Information Act request indicates that Smith’s probationary status with the county was terminated after it was determined that he disobeyed an order and was untruthful about being sick to avoid reporting to an assignment.
Cornwall said he was aware of the termination report but still believed Smith was qualified to work the 25 to 30 hours per month he’s assigned at Chenoa.
The Chenoa chief said the information he has received so far indicates that Smith acted properly during the Kroger incident. “We believe he did the right thing and we believe the investigation will show that,” said Cornwall.
Kroger spokesman John Elliott said it’s common for the store to hire off-duty officers as part of a multi-faceted security team. He declined to comment on the robberies at the Normal store.