Driver accused of killing Officer Kaia Grant shot himself in the head, prosecutor's office says

Deters: Aggravated murder charge could lead to death penalty
Posted at 1:58 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 21:09:54-04

CINCINNATI — A driver shot himself in the head after deliberately crashing into and killing Springdale police officer Kaia Grant last month, according to the county prosecutor's office.

Prosecutor Joe Deters released new details of the March 21 incident Wednesday after announcing aggravated murder charges against 42-year-old Terry Blankenship of Blanchester, Ohio. Deters said he expects a grand jury to add death penalty specifications to the charge.

According to a release from Deters' office, Blankenship shot himself with his own gun in his pickup truck, causing "extensive damage to his face." There was no update on his condition. Blankenship was taken to UC Medical Center after the crash on Interstate 275 near Route 4.

The impact of the crash activated Grant’s body camera and a single gunshot is heard, according to the release. A loaded .45 caliber semi-automatic was found in Blankenship’s truck. No shots were fired by any police officers on the scene, officials said.

Grant and another Springdale officer, Sgt. Andrew Davis, had stepped out of their cruisers and were preparing to put down stop sticks as Blankenship fled toward them during a police pursuit.

"Blankenship made a sudden turn toward the officers and drove directly into the police officers and their marked police vehicles," the release said. "Neither officer was able to deploy their stop sticks. The impact caused Officer Grant’s body to go airborne and cross the highway barrier and land on the opposite side of the highway."

Watch the press conference in which officials announced the charges in the player below:

Deters said the purposeful killing of a police officer constitutes a death penalty case in Ohio. It’s up to the grand jury to decide whether Blankenship intentionally killed Grant, he said.

“I personally feel he purposefully drove into this officer,” Deters said. “If you have the opportunity to see his text messages, that they’re going to have to kill him before they take him, arrest him… It would not surprise me at all if this would return a death specification.”

Ohio Attorney General David Yost said Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents spent four days processing the crime scene.

“One element … of the evidence that supports these charges is our techs recovered paint chips from Officer Grant’s body that were consistent with the maroon paint job on the defendant's truck,” Yost said.

Yost said other forensic evidence will be presented at trial and that he is confident Blankenship will be proven guilty.

Before the crash, Elmwood Place police pursued Blankenship on a felony warrant for allegedly pistol-whipping his ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend during a home invasion in Clinton County two days earlier. Because of that, the Clinton County charges will be handled by a Hamilton County grand jury.

Deters said the grand jury will take this up at the end of April because of current stay-at-home orders.

Springdale Chief Tom Wells said the support the police department has received from the community has helped them begin the healing process.

Wells said Davis is back to work.

“There’s no way I can describe what this feels like … but our officers, I couldn’t be prouder of the way they’ve demonstrated their professionalism in returning to work,” Wells said.