CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Chattanooga Police say the ex-convict suspected of fatally shooting a veteran police officer was wanted in Colorado for robbery.

Sgt. James T. Chapin, 51, was shot and killed in the shootout Saturday that broke out when police were responding to a robbery at a pawn shop.

Police said in a statement released Sunday that Chapin was shot in the head, and Officer Lorin Johnston was struck in the back but was protected by a bulletproof vest.

The statement says “hearts are heavy” at the department.

Police were fired upon by Jesse R. Mathews, a parolee from Colorado, the statement said. The release does not list any charges against Mathews, who was also shot. It said Mathews’ condition and injuries were not being released due to his status as a fugitive.

Mathews, 25, became eligible for parole last year, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections website. It said Mathews was sentenced to prison in 2003, though it does not detail the offense.

Johnston was treated and released at a local hospital.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd said Chapin’s fellow officers were shocked at his death. Chapin was the first Chattanooga officer to be fatally shot in the line of duty since 2002.

“It’s probably the most tragic thing you could go through. It’s losing a family member. He’s a super nice guy. Has a family of his own,” Dodd told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“I think a lot of the folks out here are just numb at this point,” Dodd said.

Police were called to U.S. Money Shops at 10:24 a.m. Saturday, and the first officer on the scene came under fire, the statement said. More officers responded and Mathews fired on them after exiting a side door of the store.

“One of those responding officers to pursue Mathews was Sergeant Chapin,” the statement said. “Mathews fired into his patrol car and he was subsequently struck by the car but continued to run. Sergeant Chapin gave chase but the suspect produced his weapon and shot Sergeant Chapin in the head.”

Officers firing on Mathews struck him and brought him into custody shortly after. Chapin was pronounced dead at the scene. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Chapin joined the Chattanooga Police Department in 1984. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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