A Toledo woman who was stalked by a former boyfriend was fatally shot on Sunday at the Southland Shopping Center parking lot and the shooting suspect continued into Maumee, where he apparently took his own life after a nearly five-hour standoff with police.
Dead in what police called a murder-suicide were Kaitlin Gerber, 20, and her one-time boyfriend, Jashua Perz, 29.
The dramatic events that began in South Toledo were the culmination of what family members said was months of alleged stalking, threats, and harassment by Perz.
Sunday's events unfolded just after 11:30 a.m. when Miss Gerber, 20, called 911 from her car and told police that an ex-boyfriend was chasing her in a car and he had a gun.
"Shortly after [her first 911 call], she reported being shot at," Toledo Police spokesman Sgt. Joe Heffernan said. "As that was happening, we also had other 911 calls from citizens saying that a male was shooting at a female in a car."
Miss Gerber's father, Jeff Gerber, said his daughter was leaving for work when she saw Perz's car.
"She drove off to protect the rest of the home," Mr. Gerber said, adding that Perz previously had threatened Miss Gerber's nieces and nephews. "He was a monster."
Sergeant Heffernan said Miss Gerber crashed her car, driving up on the curb on Byrne Road near Planet Fitness in the shopping plaza parking lot. When officers reached her, they found her shot to death inside the car.
Steve Kahle, a Lucas County Coroner's Office investigator, said Miss Gerber may have been struck by a bullet before her car jumped the curb. The assailant reportedly drove up to her stopped car and fired several more rounds, Mr. Kahle said, citing accounts from witnesses.
She was pronounced dead at 11:39 a.m.
"It's a very sad situation," Sergeant Heffernan said. "It is unusual to have somebody being chased through the streets getting fired at. It's just sad to see this young lady had to lose her life in this manner. It's just a tragedy."
With reports of the shooter fleeing in a blue GMC Envoy, Maumee police quickly tracked the sport utility vehicle to a ranch house in the 1100 block of Kirk Street in an otherwise quiet neighborhood in Maumee.
Maumee Police Lt. Jeff Siebenaler said police made contact with Perz, who had barricaded himself inside. Crisis negotiators began speaking with Perz by phone and spoke with him for several hours, he said.
"The individual indicated on several occasions his willingness to come out and surrender himself to police officers," Lieutenant Siebenaler said. "Of course, he never followed through on that promise."
Just after 4 p.m., SWAT team members in an armored black vehicle pulled up on the curb in front of the house and, using a loudspeaker, implored Perz to come out and talk with them.
"Come to the door with your hands up where we can see them. Work with us," the negotiator could be heard saying. "Come and talk with us. Make this thing end. Come on. We don't want anybody to get hurt."
As the negotiator spoke, members of the tactical team shot tear gas through the windows of the house, but there was no movement.
The standoff ended about 4:35 p.m. when the SWAT team used a battering ram attached to the armored vehicle to knock in the front door. Team members lined up at the front door and carefully went inside about 4:45 p.m.
Lieutenant Siebenaler said officers found Perz inside with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He said police did not hear the shot that killed the suspect, though he said that's not unusual considering the cold weather conditions.
He said police did not fire any shots, "only tear gas."
Mr. Kahle said Perz was pronounced dead at 4:55 p.m.
As they waited outside, officers were aware that the suspect was suicidal and some feared he could come out with his gun drawn to entice police to shoot him.
"That's why we take our time and put so many precautions into place in advance," Lieutenant Siebenaler said, adding that the operation went as smoothly as could be expected.
"I think it did go well in regard to the fact that no police officers were injured, no citizens, and no other threats were posted to the community at large," he said. "It's unfortunate it ended the way it did, but the reality is, that's his decision."
Neighbors at the scene said they didn't know the man who lived at the house.
"This is always a quiet neighborhood. We never have excitement," said Jean Murphy, who lives just a few houses down from the shooting suspect.
She said she was reading a book when she got up about noon to get something to eat and saw a police cruiser's flashing lights outside,
Miss Gerber worked at the Lexus of Toledo car dealership in Sylvania Township and at Jim Shull's Rib Cage in Maumee. She was planning to attend the University of Toledo to study either pharmacology or chemical engineering, her father said.
The two met at the restaurant where Perz was a customer, said Mr. Gerber, who described his daughter as "an ambitious young lady" and an outgoing, wonderful girl who was very church-oriented, very driven. She attended Toledo First Baptist Church and its offshoot church aimed at younger people and sang in the choir.
Their relationship soured last year Mr. Gerber said.
On the Friday before Labor Day, Perz showed up at the car dealership, Mr. Gerber said.
"He kidnapped her at her place of work and threatened to kill her with a knife," Mr. Gerber alleged. Police reports on the incident were not available on Sunday.
Her father said Perz wrote her 20 letters, sent to her at the car dealership. She took the letters to the Sylvania Township authorities and obtained a restraining order prohibiting further contact.
Mr. Gerber said Perz continued to call and write her. Perz was charged on Feb. 6 with four misdemeanor counts of violating the order, according to Sylvania Township court records.
According to Sylvania City Solicitor James Moan, Perz pleaded guilty to one count of violating a protective order issued by Lucas County Domestic Relations Court on Feb. 27 and was freed on his own recognizance until a pre-sentence report scheduled for April 1 and a sentence date May 1.
The plea to the first-degree misdemeanor was in connection with a letter that was mailed to the victim by Perz on Jan. 8. Three other cases, related to three other letters, mailed Dec. 5, Dec. 8, and Jan. 14, were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, Mr. Moan said. He said the agreement was recommended by the prosecutor and signed by the victim.
Mr. Gerber said the justice system did little to protect his daughter.
"The judge knew he was a threat," Mr. Gerber said.
After dealing with the threats and harassments, Miss Gerber moved back to her parents' home, changed cars, and dyed her hair to avoid seeing Perz, Mr. Gerber said.
"This guy was in jail for violent behavior and he broke a protection order," he said. "He was a monster. A real monster. The criminal justice system has completely disappointed us."
By Jennifer Feehan and Jim Sielicki - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
©2013 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
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