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Updated Tuesday, Feb. 19 with Leslie Austin's cause of death.
A Missouri man kidnapped a woman and her 10-year-old daughter, led multiple law enforcement agencies on a 100-mile multi-state pursuit and gunned down a carjacking victim before being dying in a police shootout.
Leslie Austin, 39, of Jefferson City, kidnapped his girlfriend, Danielle Smith, 33, and her daughter in Jefferson City on Tuesday, and then fatally shot 67-year-old Gregory Price while attempting to steal his car, police said.
The murderous rampage began shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday, when Jefferson City police were tipped off to gunshots in a downtown neighborhood. Upon arrival, law enforcement found shell casings and broken glass. Witnesses told authorities they saw a blue SUV speeding from the scene.
Lt. David Williams of the Jefferson City Police, told Oxygen.com that his department notified other regional and state law enforcement agencies about the vehicle’s description.
About an hour later—and nearly 80 miles away—state troopers near Union, Missouri, tried to pull Austin over for outdated registration. But Cpl. Juston Wheetley of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said that Austin raced through numerous red lights and evaded pursuit.
At that point, police “were not aware the suspect was wanted,” Wheetley told Oxygen.com.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office then located Austin on Interstate 44, near St. Louis. Sheriff Steve Pelton told Oxygen.com said his officers trailed Austin for roughly another “30 miles,” at speeds between “60 and 90 miles per hour.”
While the high-speed chase was unfolding, Austin fired “multiple shots” at pursuing police vehicles.
Austin later crossed into Illinois, where state police there took over the pursuit.
Austin entered Illinois around 9:34 p.m. and authorities there, anticipating his path, deployed a spike strip, which he drove over, according to a police press release. The maneuver “slowed” Austin down, allowing Smith and her daughter the opportunity to make a daring exit by jumping out of the moving SUV.
"This gave the alleged kidnapping victims, Danielle L. Smith and the 10-year-old female juvenile, an opportunity to escape the vehicle on Illinois Route 140,” the release stated. Smith suffered several bullet wounds and was taken to the hospital, and is reportedly in stable condition and recovering, according to Christopher Watson of the Illinois State Police.
Jefferson City authorities haven’t interviewed Smith yet and are unclear what led to the abduction. However, they believe she was shot at the scene of the kidnapping.
“We believe she suffered some type of injury here before she was taken against her will," said Williams, spokesperson for the Jefferson City Police.
But the hellish highway pursuit of Austin continued—and it soon took a gruesome turn.
About 40 miles east of St. Louis, near Shoal Creek, Illinois, Austin attempted to carjack Gregory Price, a 67-year-old retiree, who was returning home from a game of cards with friends, according to KMOV. The carjacking failed, and Austin shot and killed Price, police said. Minutes later, he unsuccessfully tried to steal another vehicle. He continued to flee, and eventually exited his vehicle and fired upon police, who returned shots. Police found Austin dead a short time later. An autopsy concluded that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police revealed over the weekend.
Authorities said the 10-year-old child and responding officers were unharmed.
“[Austin] put a lot of agencies and a lot of citizens in danger,” Williams added.
According to KMOV, Austin had recently moved into an apartment a short distance from where the shooting and kidnapping took place in Jefferson City. One of his neighbors told the local news station that Austin was “gentle” and “intelligent.” The CBS affiliate also reported that Price, the man Austin killed during the attempted carjacking near Shoals Creek, had a wife and 28-year-old son.
Court documents obtained by Oxygen.com reveal Austin had an extensive criminal record in Missouri that included prison time and convictions for domestic assault, resisting arrest, and endangering a child’s life. In 2014, Smith sought a court protection order against him for stalking her.
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