Michigan State Police
St. Joseph Post
September 9, 1984
Trooper Robert Mihalik and his family spent the early afternoon hours of September 9, 1984 at the St. Mary's Lutheran Church picnic and even took an extra hour of comp time to spend more time with his family before working his normal 3:00PM to 11:00PM shift.
The start of his shift at 4:00PM was uneventful for the most part until an attendant at the P&R Shell station at Napier Avenue and I-94 in Benton Township called the Michigan State Police St. Joseph Post at 5:15PM to report a brown Cadillac had just driven off without paying for gas and cigarettes. The observant Trooper Mihalik spotted the vehicle on I-94 westbound near Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville and followed it as the vehicle exited the highway. Although not entered into LEIN/NCIC at the time, the vehicle was in fact stolen. At 5:28PM, Trooper Mihalik radioed his dispatch that he was behind the vehicle and would be stopping it on Shoreham Drive off of Red Arrow Highway, in St. Joseph Township. As he approached the vehicle, the driver, Frederick Burrell of Detroit, got out of the vehicle and began arguing. Trooper Mihalik ordered him to turn around and assume the position of arrest. Mihalik put the handcuff on Burrell's right hand, but then swung around and pushed Trooper Mihalik onto the hood of the squad car and immediately grabbed for the troopers gun. Unable to keep a hold of his gun, Trooper Mihalik rolled off the car and crouched beside it for cover. Burrell began yelling and waving the gun in the air, then suddenly shot over the hood of the squad car at Trooper Mihalik. Six shots were fired, in which 3 hit the trooper. One non-fatal round struck him in the chin and two rounds, including the fatal one, struck his chest. Trooper Mihalik was not wearing his bulletproof vest at the time, probably due to the heat and humidity that day, but was able to draw his snub nose backup revolver and fire 5 shots, striking Burrell's left hand once.
Witnesses Tim and George Ulrich, who heard the shots, went outside and saw a black male running through a neighbor's grape vineyard. As other officers arrived, they pointed out where Burrell was hiding. Burrell was arrested without incident by a Berrien County deputy and a St. Joseph officer; his right wrist still handcuffed.
Robert Mihalik was born on March 23, 1947 in Niles, Michigan and resided with his family in Lincoln Township. He graduated from Lakeshore High School in 1965 and Michigan State University in 1969. He served in the US Army for 21 months before joining the Michigan State Police in 1973. He was first assigned to the Ionia Post, transferred to the Detroit Freeway Post in 1978 and then to the St. Joseph Post in 1981. His body was laid to rest in the Lincoln Township Cemetery, Stevensville, Michigan.