Columbus man was under influence during police shooting, manhunt

A Columbus man who died in a Sept. 30 exchange of gunfire with police was under the influence of methamphetamine at the time, authorities said.

Toxicology results for Quentin Starke, 44, of 25 Huffman Drive, also show that he had marijuana and traces of fentanyl in his system, along with a nasal decongestant, Bartholomew County Coroner Clayton Nolting said Thursday.

Starke, who had been on the run from police following an early morning pull-over attempt, had fired on and narrowly missed a Columbus Police Department officer. Shortly afterward, Starke was killed by an Indiana State Police SWAT team member, police said.

Nolting’s office received the results from Decatur County Coroner Doug Banks, who handled the autopsy and toxicology testing for Bartholomew County to avoid any conflict of interest for local investigators.

Starke’s autopsy indicated he died from multiple gunshot wounds to his head and chest during a police search in the area around Garden City and the Columbus Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The incident began at 4:20 a.m. Sept. 30 when Columbus Police Sgt. Josh McCrary tried to pull over Starke’s Toyota Camry at 11th and Washington streets in downtown Columbus, police said.

Starke refused to stop and led officers on a pursuit down State Road 11 in Garden City, crossing over stop sticks used to deflate tires, and then turning onto a paved road that goes near the wastewater plant at 3465 Jonesville Road.

He left the vehicle near the East Fork White River west bank treeline and used a long gun to fire one shot at McCrary, who was still in his car, police said. The bullet grazed McCrary’s head but he was not seriously injured, police said.

A manhunt then began with Indiana State Police, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department deputies and city police searching the wooded area near Starke’s vehicle, police said.

A state police SWAT team member searching along the east bank of the river came across Starke, who used the long gun to fire at the officer’s head, but missed, police said. The trooper returned fire hitting Starke, who died later at the scene, police said.

Starke previously had been arrested on drug-related charges and was booked into the Bartholomew County Jail on Aug. 27, 2015, on charges of possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, illegal possession of ginseng and illegal possession of a rattlesnake by the Department of Natural Resources.

McCrary was treated and released from Columbus Regional Hospital on Sept. 30 and was placed on administrative leave, but since returned to work for the city police department.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.