The man who allegedly shot at police officers near Illinois Valley Community College Tuesday night, took a police vehicle and was later arrested was identified Wednesday as 35-year-old Peter Douglas Bergsma.
La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton and others released details of the Oglesby incident during a press conference Wednesday morning.
At 7:50 p.m. Tuesday, Oglesby police received a call from the IVCC security office regarding a suspicious RV parked behind a building near the school’s automotive building. The RV had Michigan plates, although police still are determining where the suspect is from.
“We can find nothing so far of any indication of why he was here in the county or had any reason to be here in the county.”— La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton
Oglesby officers responded and approached the vehicle, knocking on the door. After having a conversation with the suspect, the officers asked him to come out of the vehicle. The suspect complied.
During further discussion with the officers, the suspect reportedly pulled out a gun and began firing at the officers. The officers returned fire and took cover near their vehicles.
Officials said they are unaware of the reason for the escalation at this time.
Both squad cars in the area were hit with gunfire. The suspect then got into one of the squads, driving off and leaving the campus parking lot.
The officers requested assistance, and numerous area agencies from La Salle, Peru, Tonica, Illinois State Police and La Salle County Sheriff’s Office responded.
Officials then began searching for the squad car and found it not far from the gunfight in a residential area. Officers observed the squad car to be empty and located fresh tracks in the snow and followed them back onto the IVCC campus.
The squad car was damaged in the process, as one of the front tires was blown off the rim and multiple windows were shattered. Templeton said he believes the vehicle was damaged enough to stop the suspect from driving, and that led to his decision to leave on foot.
“Initially when he left in the stolen squad car, he pulled into a neighborhood not very far away,” Templeton said. “When he pulled into there, there was a serious concern for the residents that were in their houses.
“The officers were pretty immediate when they saw tracks leading away from the vehicle. We felt better that he wasn’t in a house at that point.”
The trail led officers into a wooded area and down a hill into another residential area along the Illinois River.
Officers stationed on the Shippingsport Bridge eventually spotted the suspect running along the riverbank. The officers yelled at the suspect to stop and held him at rifle point until additional officers could arrive on the scene.
The suspect was then taken to Illinois Valley Community Hospital, where he was treated for a head wound. Officials believe the suspect’s head was grazed from a gunshot.
From there, the suspect was released into the custody of La Salle County sheriff’s investigators and currently is in custody at the La Salle County Jail.
No officers were harmed during the shooting, but two have been placed on paid administrative leave to recover from the event, Oglesby Police Chief Doug Hayse said. Officials said this is standard procedure in these types of cases.
State’s Attorney Todd Martin said the extent of the suspect’s charges still is unknown at this point, as Martin is awaiting reports from police officials.
“The investigation is still ongoing,” Martin said. “Things happened last night a little bit later in the evening. Obviously, with the weather and the circumstances behind where the vehicle was located, we had the bomb squad clear everything before police got in and searched.
“This took a lot of time last night, and it’s pretty fresh this morning.”
Martin also said he believes the suspect could be charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm, and additional charges are pending the results of the investigation. The suspect could appear in court Thursday morning, Martin said.
The La Salle County State’s Attorney’s Office issued a search warrant for the RV the suspect was in. Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigators as well as the Kane County Bomb Squad were called in to assist.
“We can find nothing so far of any indication of why he was here in the county or had any reason to be here in the county,” Templeton said. “But again, it happened at 7:50 last night, and it’s 10 o’clock this morning, so there is a lot to be done yet before we get to the bottom of it.
“Hopefully we’ll get some more answers.”