Early this morning in Iowa, two police officers were shot and killed ambush style while sitting in their patrol cars. The man suspected of shooting the officers at close range is Scott Michael Greene, a 46-year-old from suburban Des Moines. Frank Morris reports that police in Des Moines say they'd had previous interactions with the suspect.
FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Just after midnight this morning in Urbandale, Iowa, a sleepy suburb of Des Moines, Russell Cheatem was just about to go to bed.
RUSSELL CHEATEM: I was laying down. I heard gunfire — pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow. So I jumped up as soon as I heard that. I looked out the window. Well, when I looked out the window, I see a guy standing at the window of the police car. But he is kind of looking as if he is talking to the police.
MORRIS: Cheatem saw all this from his living room window overlooking a quiet intersection. He says he figured that everything was OK. After all, he says the closest thing to gunfire on the street happens just once a year when the Urbandale Fourth of July parade turns at this very same corner.
Cheatem says the man who appeared to be talking to the officer walked off coolly and got into his pickup truck. But when the police car stayed put, Cheatem put on his shoes and went out to have a look.
CHEATEM: When I opened the police door and saw him slumped over, I realized that there was nothing I could do for him.
MORRIS: He called 911, and a few minutes later, police responded.
CHEATEM: At that time, a police officer come with his gun drawn. I tried to explain to him what was happening. The state trooper had pulled up there. And just before the trooper got out of his car, I heard gunshots in the distance — pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow, pow.
MORRIS: Cheatham thinks that was the sound of the second officer being shot about two miles away. Later this morning, Sergeant Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department identified the officers who were killed.
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SERGEANT PAUL PARIZEK: The officers that were involved in this today — we're ready to identify those folks. On the Des Moines Police Department side, that was Sergeant Anthony Beminio. He goes by Tony, and he's been with us since 2005. He had some prior service at another local police department prior to that. He was promoted last year. He's a great guy in this department, a good friend to a lot of us, a fantastic family man. It's just really hard to lose Tony.
MORRIS: The Urbandale officer was Justin Martin. After a full-scale manhunt, police arrested 46-year-old Michael Greene. Greene was on a rural road some 35 miles from where the shootings took place. Greene actually flagged down a state worker, complaining of a flare up of a medical condition, showing him his ID and asking them to call 911. He later surrendered without a struggle. Urbandale Police Chief Ross McCarty says Michael Greene is well-known to his officers.
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CHIEF ROSS MCCARTY: We're familiar with Mr. Greene from our years of service. Most of the officers that have been in the city have some understanding of Mr. Greene, yes.
MORRIS: McCarty says Greene got into trouble recently attending a football game at Urbandale High School. He says he was there waving a Confederate battle flag in the face of black spectators. After some lengthy back and forth, police escorted him out of the game. The district was working with the police department to keep Greene from trespassing on school grounds, though his daughter attends classes there.
A couple of years ago, police confronted Michael Greene after he allegedly threatened to kill a neighbor, using a racial epithet beginning with the letter N.
McCarty says his officers found at least 15 shell casings on the corner where Officer Martin was killed. Like many here, Russell Cheatem reflects on the shootings with a profound sense of loss and anger that this type of random violence has come to his town. For NPR News, I'm Frank Morris in Des Moines.