ROCKFORD — McHenry County sheriff’s deputy Jake Keltner volunteered for a team that chased “the worst of the worst” criminal offenders. On Thursday, the worst happened.
Keltner, a 35-year-old father of two, was fatally shot in the head around 9:15 a.m. Thursday while he and members of a special U.S. Marshals task force attempted to arrest a wanted man at the Extended Stay America on Bell School Road.
The suspect, Floyd E. Brown, 39, of Springfield, fired shots both inside and outside the hotel, also injuring a 25-year-old woman who was with him, police said. He escaped authorities by leaping from a third-story window before he got in his car and drove more than 160 miles downstate, where he eventually crashed and was arrested after a long standoff, according to authorities.
Brown, who had previously ducked authorities who tried to apprehend him in Bloomington in December, was wanted on burglary warrants in McLean and Champaign counties. He was wanted for failure to appear in Sangamon County and for violating his parole. He will now face both state and federal first-degree murder charges.
Keltner, of Crystal Lake, was a dedicated and hardworking officer whose family is well associated with law enforcement. His brother is an officer in DuPage County and his father is retired from DuPage County and still affiliated with the U.S. Marshals, McHenry County Sheriff Bill Primm said.
“He comes from a long line of service,” Primm said at a Thursday evening news conference in Rockford. “He’s a dedicated guy. He’s a dedicated family man. He’s just truly going to be missed.”
Keltner leaves behind a wife and two young children. He had worked for the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department for nearly 13 years, becoming a detective in 2009, according to McHenry County Sheriff's Chief of Administration David Devane.
“Deputy Keltner was an integral part of our office, someone who had risen quickly to greater responsibilities after he was first sworn in in 2006,” Primm said in a statement posted on Facebook. “He was loved and respected by all of his colleagues, and he will be sorely missed.”
About five years ago, Keltner volunteered to become a member of the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.
“He was part of a group of officers that chased the worst of the worst,” Primm said. “Unfortunately, sometimes when people are willing to take on these responsibilities this is an unfortunate end.”
Police departments and public officials from across the region offered their condolences to Keltner’s family and members of the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department. On Thursday evening, a procession of police vehicles stretching several miles escorted Keltner’s body from Mercyhealth’s Javon Bea Hospital-Riverside on the city’s east side through the heart of the city to the coroner’s office downtown. Some residents lined the procession route to pay their respects, holding their hands in salute or over their hearts as bright blue and red lights flickered through the dark. Rockford firefighters also lined the route, saluting as the procession passed.
Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said the shooting “reminds us of the dangers faced by law enforcement every day as these brave men and women work to keep us safe.”
The deadly shooting unfolded as members of the task force tried to serve an arrest warrant on Brown at the hotel.
Brown and his girlfriend were staying in room 305 when task force officers attempted the arrest, according to a federal criminal complaint. Brown’s girlfriend came to the door and said she wanted to get out of the room, but the interior swing lock was still engaged. Officers heard a man yell from inside the room before shots were fired through the hotel door and the walls of the room toward the officers.
Keltner was positioned on the northeast side of the hotel. After Brown fled from the third-story window, he shot Keltner in the head in the parking lot, the complaint states. Keltner died shortly after 3:30 p.m. at Javon Bea Hospital.
Although the criminal complaint described the woman as a girlfriend, police at a news conference only identified her as an acquaintance and declined to elaborate on their relationship. She was taken to a Rockford hospital where she was treated and released. She does not face any charges and her name was not released.
“Based on what we know at this time, there were no shots fired at all by law enforcement officers,” Rockford police Lt. Kurt Whisenand said. “We believe that, based on what we know at this time, that the female victim was injured by the suspect’s rounds.”
Brown then drove a Mercury Grand Marquis more than 160 miles south before crashing in Logan County. A state police trooper had tried to stop him on Interstate 39, but Brown led them on a chase through Bloomington and Normal before driving onto Interstate 55, where he crashed into a field.
State police SWAT teams and crisis negotiators converged on the vehicle. Brown surrendered after more than five hours, Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Sam Thomas said.
Brown was on parole after being convicted of a series of burglaries in Decatur in 2011. He was released from prison on Jan. 23, 2018, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records.
He previously eluded police in December when he fled and crashed into three other vehicles, injuring two people, authorities said at the time.
Brown has been charged with first-degree murder in Winnebago County. The U.S. attorney’s office also has authorized first-degree murder charges, something that could allow federal prosecutors to pursue the death penalty.
“The death penalty is a possibility. There is a whole process we have to go through before we determine if that will be done,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Margaret Schneider, Rockford branch chief for the U.S. attorney’s office, said at an evening news conference.
Thursday’s shooting led police from multiple agencies to converge on the hotel in Rockford, and residents in nearby neighborhoods looked to stay safe after learning the suspect was at large.
Goran Lozanovic said his son, Dean, called him Thursday morning and asked him to go to Dean’s townhouse about a block from the hotel. Lozanovic’s 11-month old twin granddaughters were home with their baby sitter, and Lozanovic said he went to his son’s home to protect them.
“It’s concerning but what can we do?” Lozanovic said. “Just stay inside. Stay away. You can make it worse if you go out — wrong move. If they try to run inside, that’s why I’m here.”
Upon learning Brown had been stopped, Lozanovic voiced relief. “I was concerned about my grandkids,” he said.
Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross said the case against Brown will now move through the judicial system.
“We send our condolences out to the family of the officer, as well as all law enforcement officers who share in the loss of one of our heroes in blue,” Hite Ross said.