WARNING: This story features police body camera video which contains the sound of a gunshot and the victim’s reaction.
DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) — Decatur police have released harrowing body camera video of a suspect shooting a police officer during a foot chase this month on the same day the suspect was charged with attempted murder.
Police Chief Shane Brandel on Thursday also identified the officer for the first time. She is Stephanie Vail, who has been on the force for six years and currently assigned to the patrol division. Brandel said Vail is out of the hospital and continues to recover.
Each video is around 90 seconds long. One video is from the officer’s squad car, which shows a fleeing vehicle with sparks coming from it and the suspect, 23-year-old Joseph L.V. Williams, getting out of the driver side and running.
The other video, which is the more compelling of the two, is from Vail’s body camera. At 30 seconds into that video, Vail gets out of her squad car to pursue the suspect, who police said had committed traffic violations and fled at a high speed, hitting a parked and empty vehicle in the process.
“Subject’s running northbound,” Vail says just before she gets out of her car. As Vail runs between houses, she shouts, “Stop!” and “Decatur police, stop!” Just as Vail gets those words out – at 50 seconds into the video – a bang is heard, Vail cries out, and she falls to the ground.
A police affidavit said the bullet hit a pole and shattered before it struck Vail in the face and left shoulder.
Vail then speaks into her police radio, “Shots fired, shots fired, [suspect] still running northbound. I was hit with something. Still running northbound on Maffit [Street]. I’m bleeding.” Vail gets up for a moment while breathing heavily, then squats back down. “If we have a K9 [police dog], I can let you know where to go. Maffit [Street] just north of Clay [Street].”
Vail then describes the suspect on her police radio, saying “Black male wearing all black. Black hoodie.” She adds, “give me an ambulance.” Vail then starts to walk back toward her car as the video ends. Decatur police officials earlier said another officer took Vail to the hospital.
“As the Chief of Police, I want to commend the officers and detectives of the Decatur Police Department,” Brandel said in a statement. “The dedication of the men and women of DPD is inspiring to me and makes me proud to be a part of this organization. I also want to thank the community for the words of support and encouragement. In the current climate, all law enforcement officers appreciate hearing and knowing they are supported by the communities they serve.”
Williams was later arrested. Police in an affidavit claim the man tried to remove evidence from his hands to prevent officers from doing a gunshot residue test.
Police said they later found the gun allegedly used in the crime, and it had an extended magazine. Police said the weapon had malfunctioned during the incident. “Had the Glock not malfunctioned, Joseph L. V. Williams would have been able to fire all rounds in the magazine in a single trigger pull at the sworn Decatur Police Officer. This would have drastically increased the chances of this officer being murdered in the line of duty,” the police affidavit said.
Williams’ charges include attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a machine gun. He faces 45 years to life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge. Williams remains in jail on $10 million bond. During a court appearance Thursday morning, Williams told a judge he wanted to be his own attorney. The judge set a hearing for Friday to discuss that further.
Williams in court Thursday also turned around and made an obscene gesture toward WCIA’s Cole Henke, who was recording the proceedings. A court security officer then directed Williams to face back to the judge.
Court records and WCIA archives show Williams has had several court cases in Macon County. In 2020, WCIA reported Williams was arrested for attempted murder. Macon County State’s Attorney Scott Rueter said he had to drop those charges after two victims and a witness stopped cooperating.
Court records show Williams had a 2019 case where he was found not guilty of aggravated battery to a peace officer. Williams also was his own lawyer in that case.