Miami Postal Truck Hijacking Similar to 1987 Heartland Incident
By: Kate Scott
By: Kate Scott
Things were bit calmer in the streets of Miami Friday night, after a standoff involving a hijacked postal truck ended peacefully.
The incident started Friday morning, when a female postal worker called police, and said two men were following her in another vehicle. When officers arrived, the gunman broke into the postal truck, drove off with the worker inside, and started shooting at police. The suspect led police on a low-speed chase through two counties. Eventually, a small army of marked and unmarked police cars circled the postal truck, beginning a standoff. After talking to police negotiators for hours, the hijacker finally released his hostage unharmed, before surrendering himself.
For some Heartland police officers, the unfolding situation brought back memories of a similar scene from the past. It was January 27, 1987, nearly sixteen years ago to the day, when a Scott City man hijacked a local postal truck and forced the mailman to drive at gunpoint. The hijacker, Jeffery Wheeler, intended to rob a Cape Girardeau pharmacy for drugs. But he never got that far.
U.S. Marshal Clarence Comer and Cape Girardeau Police Officer Dan Niswonger were a part of the team that helped stop the mail truck on Mt. Auburn road near Doctor’s Park. Comer was headed home for lunch when he heard the alert call go out over the radio. Though the highly trained marshal was unarmed, he borrowed Niswonger’s shotgun and sprang into action. Comer used his vehicle to bring the mail truck to a stop. The hostage was able to escape uninjured, while the distracted Wheeler pointed his rifle at officers. When he turned to point the weapon at Comer, the marshal fired first, killing the hijacker. “He didn’t leave me any choice,” he tells Heartland News. “You have to protect yourself and the people around you. That’s what they train us to do and that’s our responsibility to the public.”
Sixteen years later, both men say the incident is still fresh in their minds. “I remember the intense fear that went through me that day, knowing that the suspect had a high-powered rifle, and not knowing what his intentions were,” says Niswonger. “I remember being really glad that Comer was there to do what he was trained to do.” “Any time you’re involved in a critical incident of any kind, it leaves memories that will last the rest of your life,” explains Comer. “And when you see a similar incident unfolding on the news, it’s going to trigger those memories. I’m glad that for the guys in Miami, things worked out well. Our worked out well too, but it would have been better if the hijacker had given up.”