Police held a press conference after an ambush shooting on North Kentucky Avenue Friday night. Police later announced the victim had died.
Jon Webb, Courier & Press
There’s no big secret to hitting a baseball, North High School star Barry Freeman told the Evansville Courier on May 13, 1986.
He’d spent the season tearing through the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, leading the city in home runs and triples. The newspaper gave him a nickname: “hit man.”
Thirty-two years later, Freeman grabbed an array of weapons and sprayed bullets across a North Side neighborhood, Evansville police say.
Jeffrey Kempf, 56, was killed in the Friday night spree. Police believe he was randomly targeted as he stepped outside to check on his neighbors.
More: EPD: Person killed in ambush shooting on Evansville’s North Side
Evansville police spokesman Sgt. Jason Cullum said Freeman also unloaded on the fleets of law enforcement vehicles that lined the 2400 block of North Kentucky Avenue. Freeman reportedly stalked through the neighborhood, concealing himself for almost an hour before police found him in a nearby yard.
“The officer fired multiple rounds at Mr. Freeman and struck Mr. Freeman and ended the threat,” Cullum said on Saturday.
They loaded Freeman into an ambulance and took him to Deaconess Hospital, where he remained under police guard until he died Sunday night.
More: Coroner: Shooting spree suspect dies; autopsy pending
Even in a country where shootings happen with horrific regularity, it’s tough to believe you’ll peel back your curtains and see a heavily armed gunman stomping down your street.
And back in the 1980s, standing around the city’s baseball diamonds, it must have been inconceivable to imagine Freeman as the suspected gunman.
The shortstop led North to a sectional title in 1985. The next season, as a senior, he hit .438 with three homers and 20 RBI. He earned a spot in the North-South All Star Baseball Series and signed a letter of intent to play ball for Rend Lake College.
It’s difficult to understand the journey from then to now. How a high school baseball star turned into the man police say filled a city with fear on a dark Friday night.
And it’s impossible to comprehend the death of Kempf – a mechanic and devoted son who cared for his elderly mother.
“He was a kindhearted guy who would do anything for anybody,” Kempf’s sister, Susie Martin, told the Courier & Press over the weekend. “That’s Jeff.”
Police are still working the case, trying to understand how it happened. And why.
Contact columnist Jon Webb at email@example.com.
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