- Associated Press - Sunday, November 20, 2016

LEEDEY, Okla. (AP) - On the evening of Oct. 30, Dewey County Sheriff Clay Sander sat in his patrol car at a rural highway junction when he saw a farm truck pass by dragging a chain and throwing sparks into the roadside ditch.

“When the pickup drove by, that was a typical sight that had happened a hundred times before. All the farmers in the area are out driving to see if they can help or bring you a cup of coffee or anything like that,” he said.

The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2eJQbqk ) reports that chain worried the sheriff.

He knew law enforcement had set up a perimeter in the area hoping to corner the subject of a statewide manhunt. A week earlier, Michael Vance had been accused of wounding two Wellston police officers, killing two relatives, stealing two vehicles, attempting to steal another, wounding that driver and trying to kidnap him. In the days that followed, authorities mobilized across the state trying to track down the suspected killer.

“I knew we had a pretty good perimeter set up, and that chain had a good chance of starting a fire inside a perimeter,” Sander recalled. “I was worried that all the firefighters are going to be out, inside our manhunt area, and I didn’t think that could be good at any point.”

Sander pulled onto the road and turned on his patrol lights, and the farm truck pulled to the side of the road. But before Sander could put his Tahoe in park, Vance stepped out of the truck and began firing a rifle toward Sander.

Sander threw his Tahoe in reverse and ducked behind his dashboard as he pressed on the accelerator.

“As I was backing up, everything kind of goes in slow motion. So I could see the bullet’s trail of windshield glass going through my car,” Sander said during a telephone interview from his home in Seiling.

“The first bullet hit me in the shoulder, and the second hit me in the elbow. I decided being in my Tahoe wasn’t the safest place to be and I need to do something, so I stopped and got out and returned fire.”

Vance climbed back in his truck, and Sander’s return fire was unable to penetrate the truck’s metal headache rack. Sander radioed for help as the truck drove away. While being treated at an Elk City hospital, Sander learned Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers had shot and killed Vance.

“Anytime that somebody is killed, that doesn’t bring joy, but it brings some relief that the community is safer,” Sander said.

Sander, 38, knew the sting of a bullet wound well before he ever made contact with Vance. In 2007, two years before becoming sheriff of Dewey County, Sander was shot while on duty as a Seiling police officer.

A man high on methamphetamine was threatening to kill his girlfriend, and Sander intercepted him in a wheat field. The man opened Sander’s car door as Sander struggled to remove his seat belt, shooting Sander in the leg before he was gunned down by law officers.

Released from the hospital earlier this month after a six-day stay, Sander is being lauded by law enforcement and folks back home. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.

“I’m certainly no hero,” Sander said. “They pay me to do this job, and so that’s part of my responsibilities.”

Sander won his bid for re-election in July with 79 percent of the primary vote. He faced no Democratic opponent.

Three people accused of aiding Vance during his run from authorities are being held without bond in the Oklahoma County jail. A hearing on their cases is pending.


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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