The sailor who rammed his car into Ryan Zike just after Zike fired multiple shots into his former girlfriend was trying to save the woman and himself, according to Lake Forest Deputy Police Chief Rob Copeland.
In a DailyNorthShore interview January 19, Copeland said the sailor told police he saw Zike shoot Lt. Claire VanLandingham, a Naval officer and dentist, then use his car as a weapon to prevent Zike from shooting VanLandingham again or turn the gun on the sailor.
VanLandingham and Zike were in a prior dating relationship and 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. At the time of the shooting, VanLandingham was living in an apartment in the Dunkin Donuts building in the 600 block of North Western Avenue in downtown Lake Forest.
Zike was standing near a white car in the parking lot behind Dunkin Donuts when the sailor arrived to give VanLandingham a ride to work, according to Copeland.
Copeland said the sailor saw VanLandingham and Zike engaged in conversation when Zike then shot her in the parking lot. Seeing that, the sailor rammed his black SUV into Zike to stop him from firing again, and crashed his vehicle into the white car. About the same time, Zike shot himself in the head, according to Copeland.
When police arrived on the scene shortly after 6:20 a.m. January 3, they found Zike’s body between the two crashed cars. He said the white car belongs to a resident of the apartment building where VanLandingham lived.
An autopsy performed by the Lake County Coroner’s Office January 4 determined Zike died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head. Copeland said the autopsy also determined Zike did not sustain major trauma from being hit by the car.
When the sailor struck Zike with his car, he did not know VanLandingham’s condition, according to Copeland. He is a Highland Park resident and enlisted member of the United States Navy assigned to the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center at Naval Station Great Lakes, where VanLandingham worked as a dentist.
Immediately after the sailor drove his car into Zike, the sailor went to administer first aid to VanLandingham. He also went into Dunkin Donuts asking someone there to call 911.
Though there were no other witnesses to the shooting, Copeland said investigators are satisfied with the sailor’s explanation of self defense and acting to protect another individual.
“Based on the evidence gathered by the (Lake County Major Crimes) Task Force and the coroner he was acting to protect her and himself,” said Copeland. “He didn’t know her condition. Everything was run by the (Lake County) state’s attorney’s office.”
Also involved in the investigation is the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, according to Ed Buice, a NCIS public affairs officer. NCIS is assisting the task force.
Copeland said he called NCIS asking for its assistance in the investigation because VanLandingham and the sailor were both Naval personnel.
“If we need records that’s the best place to get them,” Copeland said. “This was a tragic death involving Naval personnel.”
Though there are surveillance cameras in the area, Copeland said none showed the crime scene.
- Click here to learn more about the involvement of the witness as well as the relationship between Zike and Vanlandingham.
- Click here to learn how police determined the shooting was a murder-suicide.
- Click here to read local reaction the day of the shooting.
- Click here to read the initial coverage of the murder-suicide.