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Florissant man found guilty of fatally striking officer during 2021 pursuit

Following a bench trial that began Monday, Caleb Campbell was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2021 death of Officer Brian Pierce.

MADISON COUNTY, Ill. — A Florissant man was found guilty Thursday in the death of an Illinois police officer who was fatally struck during a 2021 police pursuit on the McKinley Bridge.

Following a bench trial that began Monday, Caleb Campbell was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Officer Brian Pierce.

The incident happened on Aug. 4, 2021, on the McKinley Bridge. According to testimony and evidence presented by state's attorneys Lauren Maricle and Ryan Kemper, Campbell was driving a red Dodge Charger at speeds of up to 98 mph while fleeing an attempted traffic stop.

Pierce, who worked for the Brooklyn Police Department, was putting out spike strips along the McKinley Bridge at around 3 a.m. when he was struck by the Charger.

He was taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.

Credit: Family photo
Officer Brian Pierce, Jr. of the Brooklyn Police Department

“Officer Brian Pierce should be alive today,” said Madison County State's Attorney Tom Haine in a release announcing the verdict. “We continue to pray for his family, who have suffered so much. We are glad the judge agreed that this was murder, plain and simple. I do hope the message continues to be heard: fleeing from the police is always wrong and dangerous, and if an officer dies, those responsible for killing the officer will face murder charges.”

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Campbell had a handgun in the car and an active Missouri warrant for his arrest when he fled the attempted traffic stop, the state's attorney's office said. 

Maricle argued in her closing remarks that Campbell "knew if he was stopped ... he was going to jail."

Dash camera video of the pursuit showed Campbell speeding through intersections, ignoring stoplights and "barrelling past" other vehicles who had stopped on the bridge behind the parked patrol vehicles belonging to Pierce and a Venice police officer. After the crash, the Charger became disabled and surveillance video captured a man and woman walking quickly from the bridge.

Maricle argued Campbell had an "utter lack of regard" for other motorists and his girlfriend, who was a passenger, and "he sure as hell didn't have any regard for Officer Pierce, either."

Credit: Madison County State’s Attorney office
Caleb Campbell was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Officer Brian Pierce.

Campbell was taken into custody days after the incident and claimed he had been carjacked in a Brooklyn nightclub parking lot.

A Brooklyn officer said in sworn testimony during the trial that around one in three attempted traffic stops in his jurisdiction results in the motorist trying to flee across the McKinley Bridge.

“We will not stand by and watch as our bridges become escape routes for wrongdoers who want to commit crimes against our residents and then try to flee across the river,” Haine said in the release, adding that the case illustrates the critical need for the Cross-River Crime Task Force to reduce crime crossing the Mississippi River into Madison County.

Campbell is scheduled for a sentencing hearing at 2 p.m. on Jan. 23. 

Illinois law allows a life sentence for first-degree murder in cases where the defendant is 18 years or older and the victim was a police officer killed while performing official duties.

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