What happened early Friday morning in a small Missouri town just outside of St. Louis sounds like the plotline for a violent R-rated movie: A police shootout in a basement with a suspected neo-Nazi with a rap sheet for drug possession and petty crime … two deputies wounded … a heavily armed suspect on the run … a blood trail at the scene … a massive manhunt with police dogs and dozens of deputies from three counties … a suspect spotted more than six hours later hiding out in a nearby house … and finally, a desperate man diving through a window before being shot dead by officers when he refuses to drop his assault-style rifle.
The real-life and now dead leading actor in this tragic drama was identified by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office as Shawn Keith Nims, 40, of Cedar Hill, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“He had the assault-style weapon in his hands, and he refused to put the gun down,” Jefferson County Sheriff Glenn Boyer told the Post-Dispatch. “The officers did exactly what they had to do.”
The wounded deputies, Nina Osia, 22, who was hit in the left calf and ankle, and Michael Toombs, 43, who was struck in the left shoulder, were treated at a hospital and released.
Nims, who the paper said was sentenced in 2005 to three years in a Missouri prison for possession of meth, had a crude tattoo on his chest of an eagle clutching a swastika and another swastika tattooed on his arm. Whether Nims got the tattoos to help survive the racial madness and danger of prison or because he was a true believer is unclear.
His Facebook page – which has since been taken down – reveals a more complicated portrait. The page includes photos of Nims holding a baby girl and another of him digging in the sand with a child. But it also includes, according to the Post-Dispatch, pictures of Nazi symbols and a scene of the Last Supper where the Devil is eating a human.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that the gunfight in Missouri is “the latest instance of a shootout between domestic extremists and law enforcement.”
Just since 2009, the ADL writes, 34 shootouts have taken place between law enforcement and domestic extremists, including right-wing antigovernment extremists, white supremacists, domestic Muslim extremists and others.
In those shootouts, according to the ADL, extremists have shot 34 police officers, 11 fatally.
The latest began when someone called 911 late Thursday night and hung up. Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Osia went to a house in Cedar Hill to investigate. People at the house told the deputy that the call was an accident and there was nothing wrong.
But “they acted kinda hinky,” Sheriff Boyer told the Post-Dispatch.
Local police had a warrant out for Nims for tampering with a motor vehicle. Deputy Osia decided to return to the house later to investigate further.
The deputy and Deputy Toombs returned to the house at 2 a.m. Friday. They were allowed in but were told Nims was not there. They were also allowed, according to the sheriff, to search the residence.
The deputies headed down to search the basement. “They started to go downstairs and were told nobody was downstairs,” the sheriff told the newspaper.
Osia went down first. Then someone started shooting at the deputies, who were both hit, as they returned fire. Nims ran back upstairs, carrying a rifle, and then vanished into the darkness.
There was a trail of blood in the house, but investigators weren’t sure if it was Nims’ blood or whether it came from the wounded officers.
At 8:20 Friday morning, police noticed an open sliding door at a house about a half-mile from the scene of the shooting. Several deputies with a canine search team went inside.
Nims dived out a front window. Deputies confronted him in the front yard, yelling at him to drop his rifle.
He refused, the sheriff said, and was shot dead.
“He was a good guy to us,” a neighbor of Nims’ told the Post-Dispatch, “but he kind of had it out for the law.”