Officer-Involved Shooting Leads to Maximum Prison Sentence for East St.Louis Man
Demetrius O. Ward, 42, of East St. Louis, Illinois, was sentenced to the statutory maximum term of
10 years in federal prison for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession
of heroin. Ward will also be required to serve the maximum three years of supervised release once
he completes his prison sentence.
Evidence in the case established that on Jan. 19, 2019, a St. Clair County sheriff’s deputy
attempted to stop the car Ward was driving. Ward refused to stop and led the deputy on a high speed
chase that did not end until Ward crashed his car into a pole. Ignoring the officer’s commands to
surrender, Ward fled on foot toward an occupied apartment complex armed with a stolen, fully-loaded
handgun and 9 grams of heroin.
The officer chased Ward on foot and repeatedly ordered him to stop. Ward ignored those commands and
continued to run. As he was approaching the apartment complex, Ward accidentally dropped the .9 mm
gun. He stopped, turned around, and while facing the officer bent down and reached to pick it up.
The officer was forced to make a split-second decision to defend himself and fired his service
weapon, striking Ward in the chest.
At the time of the offense, Ward was prohibited from possessing a gun on account of seven prior
felony convictions, including a 2005 conviction for armed robbery in St. Clair County Circuit
“In the aftermath of the shooting, Mr. Ward spoke to the media and claimed that he was the victim
who was merely reaching for money and a cell phone when the deputy tried to kill him,” said U.S.
Attorney Steven D. Weinhoeft. “Those lies were exposed and justice was done in this case. But it is
another stark reminder that the public should always wait for all of the facts to be known before
reacting to an officer-involved shooting.”
Weinhoeft continued, “At a time when law enforcement officers are increasingly under attack, we
must send a clear message about right and wrong. Demetrius Ward may have been shot, but he was no
victim. He was an armed criminal who created a dangerous situation that forced law
enforcement to act. He caused his own injuries.”
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), the centerpiece of the
Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to
be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together
to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive
solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most
violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting
reductions in crime.
This prosecution was the result of a collaborative investigation by the St. Clair County
Sheriff’s Department, the Illinois States Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.