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Putnamville trooper recalls recent brush with NIU campus shooter

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Indiana State Trooper Cory Robinson didn't recognize the face when images of the Northern Illinois University shooter, who killed five students on Valentine's Day last week before killing himself, appeared on national television.

But that all changed when the Putnamville-based trooper received a telephone call this week from a Dekalb, Ill. police officer who is investigating the shootings.

"My response was 'now why would he be calling me?" Robinson told the BannerGraphic Wednesday.

What the investigator told Robinson was that records indicated the trooper had stopped 27-year-old Steven P. Kazmierczak for speeding in Putnam County less than four months prior to the shootings.

The routine traffic stop occurred on Oct. 10, 2007 on U.S. 40 in the vicinity of CR 725 East, according to a copy of Kazmierczak's traffic ticket the BannerGraphic obtained from the Putnam County Courthouse.

The ticket indicates Kazmierczak was driving his 2001 Honda westbound and was clocked at 84 mph in a 55-mph zone.

Robinson said he was off duty and on his way to Plainfield that day when he noticed Kazmierczak speeding in the opposite direction. Robinson said Kazmierczak told him he was late for some type of training with the Indiana Department of Correction and gave that as his reason for speeding.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Kazmierczak was employed at the Rockville Correctional Facility as a guard from Sept. 24 to Oct. 9, 2007 but abruptly quit. One day later, the NIU shooter would be pulled over by Robinson for speeding.

News reports in the days following the tragedy indicated Kazmierczak, who grew up in the Chicago area, had been treated in the past for mental illness and also amassed a small arsenal of weapons, which he wound up using to carry out his deadly rampage.

According to a story that appeared on CNN, Kazmierczak's girlfriend told investigators her boyfriend had stopped taking his antidepressants several weeks before the shootings.

Robinson told the BannerGraphic he didn't observe anything about Kazmierczak the day he stopped him on U.S. 40 to indicate that he was suffering from mental illness. He also said he didn't observe any weapons in Kazmierczak's car, although he had no reason to suspect anything.

"He was upset because he was late for his training," Robinson said. "But there was nothing out of the ordinary, everyday traffic stop."

After completing the stop, Robinson allowed Kazmierczak to continue on his way, not giving it anymore thought. He said Kazmierczak mailed in his payment for the ticket a few days later.

As the investigation continues to unfold and more information about the shooter is gleaned, Robinson said he is grateful his contact with Kazmierczak was brief.

"After the fact, it's kind of a frightening experience," the trooper said. "None of us officers knows who we're pulling over when we initiate a stop. You just thank God that on that day, he hadn't started down that path that led him to commit those acts."

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That must have been right in front of my house. The state police pull over about 6 people a day here.

-- Posted by wiggle wagle on Thu, Feb 21, 2008, at 6:21 PM

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