LAKE FOREST — A Highland Park resident and member of the United States Navy saw Ryan Zike shoot Claire VanLandingham January 3, according to the Lake Forest Police Department.
The police issued a news release “in the spirit of transparency” January 16, confirming rumors and social media posts about events surrounding the murder-suicide in the parking lot behind Dunkin Donuts in the 600 block of N. Western Avenue in downtown Lake Forest. VanLandingham lived in an apartment in the donut shop building.
Deputy Lake Forest Police Chief Rob Copeland told DailyNorthShore that police did not disclose there was a witness in earlier interviews and news releases because they did not know what knowledge he possessed.
The witness, 37, who works at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center at Naval Station Great Lakes, where VanLandingham was a Navy lieutenant and dentist, arrived in the parking lot shortly before 6:20 a.m. January 3 to give her a ride to work, according to the release. The health care center is about 4.4. miles north of the building.
The witness told police that his headlights were illuminated and that he saw VanLandingham and Zike engaged in a conversation. The witness said he saw Zike shoot VanLandingham, and then he rammed Zike with his car out of fear Zike was going to shoot him, too. Copeland said Zike was standing when the witness struck him with his vehicle.
“Based on evidence at the scene, Zike inflicted the gunshot wound to his head moments before being struck by the witness’s vehicle,” police said. Copeland said police are satisfied with the witness’s explanation of self defense.
Zike died from a self-inflicted gunshot to his head and not from being struck by the witness’s vehicle, according to Lake County Coroner Dr. Howard Cooper. He said Zike did not sustain major trauma from being hit by the car.
The police investigation further determined VanLandingham and Zike were in a prior dating relationship, and that they lived together for four or five months in the 200 block of East Deerpath Road in Lake Forest, said Copeland. In October, Zike moved out of the apartment and relocated to Louisville, Ky.
Investigators with the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force earlier said the shooting was a “domestic incident,” and that the two were in a prior relationship that ended in late September/early October 2017.
During that time, Zike worked for the Park District of Highland Park as a naturalist at Heller Nature Center. He started that job September 14, 2017, and voluntarily resigned in good standing a month later, said Elizabeth Gogola, director of communications and marketing for the park district, adding that he did not provide a reason for his resignation.
Zike returned to Illinois January 2, staying overnight at an unknown location before confronting VanLandingham the next morning, according to the release. He encountered her as she left her apartment where they talked briefly before he took out a “semi-automatic pistol and shot Vanlandingham several times.”
After the shooting, the witness tried to give VanLandingham first aid, according to the release. He also ran to a nearby business asking staff there to call 911.
Police also learned Zike had a valid conceal carry gun permit in Kentucky. Along with the gun he used to shoot VanLandingham, he was armed with another pistol and a knife.