Man And Child Victims Of Fatal Crash In Hopkins County

By Carolyn P. Smith

EAST ST. LOUIS

Christopher Grant, the 47-year-old man who admitting to shooting and killing Illinois State Police Trooper Nicholas Hopkins on the front porch of an East St. Louis home in 2019, was sentenced to 480 months in prison by a federal judge Tuesday.

With time served, Grant will be imprisoned for about 37 years and nine months.

U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft asked Chief District Judge Nancy Rosenstengal to give Grant a life sentence, calling him a “street-level drug dealer” who used the house on North 42nd Street in East St. Louis to hustle cocaine and marijuana and who needed “numerous high-powered fire arms to protect his operation.”

“Trooper Hopkins’ life is an immeasurable loss that can never be made right,” Weinhoeft said. “The best the court can hope to do is impose a sentence in proportion to the gravity of the offense and the gravity for this offense calls for life.”

Hopkins was with an Illinois State Police SWAT unit attempting to serve a no-knock warrant at a duplex in the 1400 block of North 42nd Street near Caseyville Avenue before sunrise on Aug. 23, 2019. He was the first SWAT operator in nearly 20 years to die in the line of duty.

Grant had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in addition to drug and weapons charges on July 9 of this year. He still faces trial on a 10-count indictment that includes first-degree murder in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

Hopkins, 33, was a 10-year veteran of the state police. He was a life-long resident of Waterloo, where he graduated from high school and where his father served nearly 17 years as a city alderman. He was survived by his wife, Whitney Hopkins, and three children, including a newborn daughter.

“He was a fun-loving, gregarious family man assigned to ISP’s SWAT team, which assisted with a state search warrant at Grant’s house,” Weinhoeft said. “Hopkins is entirely blameless. ...

“With the pull of the trigger of a gun that he never should have had, Chris Grant took something that did not belong to him, something precious, something irreplaceable — the life of Nick Hopkins.”

The trooper’s mother, Verna Hopkins, spoke directly to Grant during her emotional victim impact statement. She told him that his actions “destroyed the Hopkins family.”

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“Nick is my third child,” she said. “Nick was a hard worker. His day started before the sun. He served with his hand and his heart. Nick was a policeman, a carpenter and a family man.

“His empty seat will forever be in our heart.”

Brendan Kelly, director of the Illinois State Police, provided an impact statement with a letter to Rosenstengel. He pointed out that Hopkins’ death was one of four among state troopers in 2019, but the only one that wasn’t caused by a traffic crash.

“Trooper Hopkins’ life was senselessly taken because someone pointed a gun and pulled a trigger, as opposed to driving distracted, too fast and/or intoxicated,” the letter said. “This was a difference with devastating distinction. Consequently, the impact was exponentially more traumatic upon Trooper Hopkins’ colleagues and the entire ISP.”

On the morning of Aug. 23, 2019, East St. Louis Police and Illinois State Police tactical units and SWAT team members swarmed the street at the front of Grant’s duplex. Hopkins and other officers were reportedly on the front porch to serve the warrant when gunfire from the inside struck Hopkins in the head.

The no-knock warrant was issued after a confidential informant reported to police that Grant was selling crack cocaine and marijuana and that he maintained an arsenal of firearms.

Three people, Grant included, were arrested at the scene. A day-long standoff ensued in the belief that a fourth suspect was holed up inside the building. Concussion bombs, smoke and water from a fire hose were used to clear the building, but no other suspects were identified. Hopkins’ death at St. Louis University Hospital was announced at 6:10 p.m. that evening.

According to the federal complaint, police recovered 12 marijuana plants and supplies for maintaining them, 35 joints, unrolled marijuana and a large cache of weapons from the duplex, including a .40 caliber Glock pistol that police connected forensically to a double homicide on Oct. 3, 2018, in East St. Louis and two other non-fatal shootings.

In March 2020, a federal grand jury indicted Grant for Hopkins’ murder.

Grant was also charged with distribution of crack cocaine, maintaining a drug house, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, use of a firearm to commit murder in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession of a firearm by a felon.

As part of an agreement, prosecutors dropped some of the charges in exchange for Grant pleading guilty to the murder.

Grant’s family told the BND that he was asleep when police entered the duplex and that he thought he was firing on someone attempting to break in.

Kim Freter, acting federal public defender, told the court Tuesday that Grant was “profoundly sorry” for what he had done and that he didn’t know it was a police officer on his front porch that morning.

“This is a tragedy all the way around,” Freter said.

Family and friends backed Grant during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. Most dropped their heads as he spoke, some with hands clasped in prayer and others with tissues to wipe tears from their eyes. Many of them wept aloud as Grant addressed the Hopkins family from a video monitor.

In handing down her sentence, Rosenstengel referenced Grant’s upbringing surrounded by durgs and violence. He was just 5-years-old when his own father was sent to prison, she said.

Grant now leaves eight children behind.

He grew up in all those circumstances, now he will be sentenced to prison and leave children of his own behind,” Weinhoeft said.

“... In a more nuanced way, this crime illustrates the gun-and-drug lifestyle, poverty and how criminality spreads between generations. The case provides a contrast between a victim’s life spent respecting the law and an offender’s life skirting it.”

This story was originally published November 9, 2021 4:35 PM.

Source : https://www.bnd.com/news/local/crime/article255683656.html

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