ARNOLD • An Arnold police officer was shot inside a police van on Tuesday afternoon by a robbery suspect handcuffed a few meters from the police station where he was taking the suspect to be booked , the authorities said.
identified as Ryan O & # 39; Connor, 44.
He was shot in the back of the neck or head, and his injuries threatened his life, said Jefferson County Sheriff's Captain Gary Higginbotham.
Around 7 pm, Higginbotham said O & # 39; Connor was out of surgery and stable. I did not know the officer's forecast or what his recovery might require.
Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak said O & # 39; Connor's injuries "are very, very serious and very critical."
The suspect, identified by police as Chad Klahs, 29, of Arnold, was shot in the head after firing at the officer, Higginbotham said. Klahs was also taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:40 p.m., said Marshak.
Police said O & # 39; Connor and Klahs were shot with a .40 caliber gun believed to have been caught in a robbery shortly before the shooting.
Klahs was being transported by O & # 39; Connor after he was arrested in a robbery in a house not far from the police station, police said. That theft was reported at 12:46 p.m.
A gun was taken in that robbery, said Higginbotham. After that robbery, but before being arrested, it is believed that Klahs broke into a vehicle in a body shop and stole another weapon.
It seems that the officers did not know when they arrested Klahs. The officers took a gun from him before handcuffing him and putting him in the back of the truck, Higginbotham said. Apparently, Klahs was able to access the second concealed gun and shoot the officer before committing suicide, Higginbotham said.
Officials inside the station, at 2101 Jeffco Boulevard, saw O & # 39; Connor's SUV approaching a sally port, where they were bringing suspects, into a camera. But when O & # 39; Connor did not enter, the officers left and found their SUV crashing into a fuel tank. Both O & # 39; Connor as the robbery suspect were seriously injured inside.
The highways were closed for the officer to be transferred to a hospital.
O & # 39; Connor and Klahs were taken to St. Anthony Medical Center in South County.  Higginbotham said that after the home burglar report, the officers of his department were called at 12:58 p.m. about shooting in nearby forests. The police suspect that these incidents were related. At 1:35 p.m., they were called to report an officer shot at the Arnold Police Department.
Matthew Saller, who lives in a subdivision near the police department, said he called police Tuesday afternoon after he found a man in his backyard a few feet from your back door.
Saller said he thinks he surprised the man when he confronted him and ordered him to leave. He said the man stumbled and then fell on a lawn chair. When the man moved to his neighbor's garden, Saller told him to also leave that yard.
"My main concern was to take him as far as possible, as peacefully as I could," he said.
watched as the man then left the neighbor's yard and headed toward the forest between the houses and Jeffco Boulevard. Saller called the police, who said he arrived in a matter of seconds.
Not long after, Saller said, he heard at least one shot in the distance.
He showed a picture of Klahs, Saller identified him as the man who had been in his yard. He said Klahs never threatened him or showed a gun and that nothing was taken from his yard. But he said the intruder seemed agitated.
"He looked like a shaky guy or in trouble," Saller said. "It was not all there, that's how I'm going to express it."
The Saller subdivision is located between the police department and the service station where Klahs was detained.
The events of the day left Saller stunned. "I've lived on this street for 20 years and I've never seen anything bad happen here," he said.
He said his heart was gone with O & # 39; Connor's family.
A police family
] O & # 39; Connor is the son of former Maryland Heights police chief Tom O & # 39; Connor. The young O & # 39; Connor had been with Arnold for about three years and had previously worked in St. Louis and Ferguson County, police said.
He is married and has four children, his friends said.
"Officer O & # 39; Connor was a dedicated and loyal member of the Ferguson Police Department for several years and during the civil unrest of 2014," said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III. "Officer O & # 39; Connor and his family are in the thoughts and prayers of our community tonight."
A gofundme account was established on Tuesday night to accept donations for O & # 39; Connor and his family.
BackStoppers, a local organization that raises money for the first responders to be injured or killed in the line of duty, tweeted that they had made a $ 5,000 donation to O'Connor.
On Tuesday night, the Arnold Police Department posted about the officer on his Facebook page. "Against all odds, our officer has fought through the horrible incidents that occurred today and remains stable," he said. "Please continue to hold him, your family, the men and women of this department in your thoughts and prayers"
Klahs, meanwhile, was "well known" by Arnold police before the shooting, said Higginbotham.
Klahs has several convictions dating back to at least 2009 when he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of theft in Jefferson County.
In 2013 he was given 120 days of "concussion" and probation for drugs and receiving stolen property charges in Jefferson County. He also pleaded guilty to those charges.
His parole was revoked in 2014 and his incarceration ordered again.
It is not clear when he was recently released.
An Anguished Force
Jefferson County sheriff's deputies spent hours investigating the scene where the crashed SUV was surrounded by a police tape. Investigators spoke with officers who were at the station when O & # 39; Connor was shot and were putting together a chronology of events together.
"They are so distressed that we can not even get information from them, which I fully understand," said Higginbotham.
Officers from the county department were taking calls at Arnold on Tuesday night.
Sheriff Marshak said the Arnold police asked his department to conduct the investigation as well as the internal related investigation.
Tuesday's shooting closely resembles the murder of St. Louis police officer Robert Stanze on August 8, 2000, who was shot dead by a man in custody with a concealed weapon.
The man, Harold Richardson, had a .45 caliber pistol hidden in his lower back. Richardson was handcuffed with his hands behind his back, but he managed to shoot from the back of a police vehicle and hit Stanze, who was standing next to the vehicle. The bullet found an opening in the officer's bulletproof vest.
Richardson pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2001.
Two officers shot in 2016
Two other Arnold police officers were killed in November 2016.
Policemen Jason Gorenstein and John Palme were hit in the face with shotgun pellets while attending a domestic disturbance at Jeffco Estates in the 2100 block of Plaza Drive. His injuries were not life-threatening, and they were treated and released.
Police said Noel Christner Kuebler Jr. came out from behind a bush and started firing at officers. The two officers were hit and another managed to hide behind a vehicle.
Kuebler faces three counts of first-degree assault against a law enforcement officer, three counts of armed criminal action and one count of resisting felony arrests.
Samantha Liss and Erin Heffernan of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.