Suspect in crime spree charged with armed robbery, carjacking among others

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Matthew Steppenwolf, courtesy Kalamazoo County jail.

Matthew Steppenwolf, courtesy Kalamazoo County jail.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Matthew Steppenwolf seemed to be fighting back tears when he first appeared on screen for his video arraignment. However he sat motionless when the charges of armed robbery, carjacking and arson were read to him.

“Do you have any questions Mr. Steppenwolf?” asked Judge Richard Santoni at the Kalamazoo County Courthouse.

“When will I see my kids again?” said Steppenwolf. The judge said that could not be determined at that time. His family wept.

Steppenwolf is facing 10 charges, including several counts of felony firearm and ethnic intimidation in addition to the ones stated above. He’s accused of Tuesday morning's violent crime spree that began with an armed robbery at the Citgo gas station on M-96 and East K Ave in Comstock Township.

“The suspect came into the store, pointed the shotgun at the clerk and ordered her to turn on the gas pump,” said Kalamazoo Public Safety police during the probable cause hearing. “She turned on the gas pump. He pumped $9.67 in his van and then left the store.”

Police said he then tried to set fire to a home in Cooper Township before driving to a house on Monterrey Drive where he shot a woman in the chest. He also allegedly tried to light that house on fire using a canister of diesel fuel.

“Officers arrived and located a female named Betty Jo Brewer with a non-life-threatening gun shot wound in her upper left chest,” police said. “While on scene, the suspect called to the occupants and used a racial slur. Police determined two black men lived at the residence.”

When law enforcement arrived, police said they saw his van driving away. They immediately pursued him but he evaded them. Miles away at the intersection of Drake Road and Croyden Avenue in Kalamazoo, police said he spotted his next victim who was getting into her car.

“He pointed a shotgun at her and told her to leave the keys in the vehicle and get out,” police stated during the hearing. “She took the keys out of the ignition, exited it and the suspect tried to pull the keys from her hand and began punching her in the face, which caused her to fall to the ground.”

The carjacking prompted Kalamazoo Central High School, and others in the area, to go on lockdown, police said. The suspect then drove off with Township officers tailing him from behind and Michigan State Police tracking him from above from a helicopter. He dodged both agencies but later crashed the stolen vehicle 40 miles outside of the city in Climax.

Thursday, his family packed the courtroom where his probable cause and arraignment was held and sobbed during both. The judge denied his bond and order him to undergo a mental health examination. One relative stated aloud in court that he may be suicidal. At the end, they shouted to him that they loved him. He responded back, “Love you.”

“We’re horrified by what’s happened,” said a man who identified himself as Steppenwolf’s father. “Our hearts and prayers are with the victims.”

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