Argument in car led to Mansfield homicide, police believe

MANSFIELD - An argument in a car apparently led to the shooting death of a 22-year-old woman at the Brookwood Way Apartments and the abduction of her 7-week-old daughter, according to law enforcement officials.

Kaitlyn Carroll-Peak was pronounced dead at 8 p.m. Wednesday by the coroner's office, said Richland County Coroner's Office investigator Bob Ball.

Law enforcement authorities had identified Dakota M. Steagall, 20, as the suspect in Carroll-Peak's shooting death and also said he had also abducted the woman's 7-week-old baby girl.

The infant was found safe with family members in Ashland, and Steagall shot himself on an exit ramp on U.S. 30 in Wooster following a high-speed chase, police said.

Mansfield police Chief Ken Coontz said during a Thursday afternoon press conference it appears there was an argument between the two that started in Carroll-Peak's vehicle in the parking lot of the apartment complex off West Fourth Street on Brookwood Way North.

This is one of five 911 calls reporting shots fired at the Brookwood Way Apartments Wednesday night. (Lou Whitmire/a 911 call from Mansfield City Dispatch)

Coontz said Steagall fired at her in the vehicle as the infant sat in the backseat. Carroll-Peak ran from the car, and Steagall chased after her, shooting at her. Steagall then fled from the scene.

A 911 call indicated there might have been a second person in the vehicle with Steagall when he fled from the apartment complex, but Coontz said there was no sign there was anyone with Steagall. He was found alone in the vehicle on the exit ramp.

Coontz said the passenger headrest was extended all the way up, which could have been mistaken for a second adult.

"In the dark, it could have easily appeared that way," he said.

Mansfield police Lt. Robert Skropits said dispatchers received reports of shots fired at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday in the 200 block of Brookwood Way North. When officers arrived, they found Carroll-Peak on the ground with gunshot wounds.

A man who called 911 said it appeared Carroll-Peak had been shot five times, including at least once in the head.

Steagall dropped off the baby with his family in Ashland, authorities said. The Ashland Police Department retrieved the child and kept the infant at their department until Richland County Children Services arrived to pick her up, said Ashland Police Capt. David Lay.

It appeared the child had been in an infant car seat, which was found in the back seat of the vehicle.

Skropits said the child could not be located in the aftermath of the incident, so the department started the process to issue an Amber Alert. The process stopped when the child was located.

U.S. Marshals spotted Caroll-Peak's vehicle on U.S. 250 East in Ashland at the BellStore gas station and attempted to arrest Steagall. But he sped off traveling south on U.S. 250, leading to a pursuit. Brian Fitzgibbon with the U.S. Marshals said the chase reached speeds up to 100 mph.

The chase ended in Wooster on the exit ramp from U.S. 30 to Ohio 3 about 11 p.m. when Steagall's car stopped.

Coontz said the Wooster Police Department used spike strips to slow down the vehicle.

Ashland County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Carl Richert said the Mansfield SWAT team and the Ashland County Sheriff's Office's bomb team were called to the scene after Steagall refused to respond or answer. Richert said the bomb squad robot was able to determine that Steagall was dead from a gunshot wound about 1 a.m. Thursday.

The Mansfield Police Department's major crimes unit and crime lab executed a search warrant Thursday morning at Steagall's apartment at 311 Brookwood Way North and collected evidence, according to a police report.

Coontz said the case was domestic violence-related.

"Domestic violence is a horrible situation," he said. "It's something that we all have to take very seriously. ... Domestic violence still exists, and it's a real issue and it's a real problem and we should all be bringing that information forward and trying to see what we can do to reduce violence."

He said it appeared Carroll-Peak and Steagall were in an on-and-off relationship, but their recent relationship status was unknown. The child is not believed to be Steagall's, Coontz said.

About a dozen Mansfield police reports detail a history of domestic disputes over the last two years between Steagall and Carroll-Peak. In February 2016, Steagall was at the center of a standoff on Brookwood Way North that ended peacefully.

"Our prayers and condolences go out to the families that were involved in this horrible incident," Coontz said. "It's certainly a great tragedy when an infant loses a loving mother, especially when it's to violence. ... It certainly resulted the death of two young people from our community and also left a wake of sorrow between two families and many friends in this entire community."

Coontz said the Peak family was instrumental in helping law enforcement determine where Steagall might have gone.

"A lot of the information that we were getting was provided by the Peak family itself," Coontz said. "They, you know, they were deeply affected by this incident, and they started reaching out, making phone calls, and we were able to stay in very close contact with the Peak family."

Coontz said the case is still under investigation.

"There are still so many questions that we still haven't even answered yet," he said.

Coontz said he did not believe Steagall was under the influence of anything. He also said he could not release any information about the gun used or how Steagall obtained it.

Several residents called 911 after the incident Wednesday night.

One of the five male callers, a neighboring resident at Brookwood Way Apartments, told a 911 dispatcher a woman was shot and she was outside.

He said he saw a male had shot the woman at least five times and that a newer red car had left the apartment complex heading south on Brookwood Way toward Speedway.

He said he was trying to get the woman to lie down on the ground.

The dispatcher asked if the male was still there, but the caller said the suspect had left.

“She’s dead,” he said. “I’m going to try to give her CPR.”

Another caller reported hearing eight shots at Brookwood Way Apartments.

Yet another caller called 911 to say it sounded like “someone capped off about six shots out here.”

Fitzgibbon thanked his task force officers, as well as the dispatchers in Richland, Ashland and Wayne counties who assisted with the case.

"Their quick actions without a doubt resulted in closure in this case as quickly as it did happen," he said. "Had they not been where they were at the time they were, who knows where Mr. Steagall would have went and how many other people could have been in jeopardy? ... Without that quick action and response, none of this would have been possible."

MANSFIELD NEWS JOURNAL


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