Robert James Mihalik

Robert James MihalikMichigan State Police St. Joseph Post

  • End of Watch: September 9, 1984

Trooper Robert Mihalik and his family spent the early afternoon hours of September 9, 1984 at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church picnic and he even took an extra hour of comp time to spend more time with his family before working his normal 3PM to 11 p.m. shift.

The start of his shift at 4 p.m. was uneventful for the most part until an attendant at the P&R Shell gas 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 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 5:28 p.m., 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. Mihalik ordered him to turn around and assume the position of arrest. Mihalik had put the handcuff on Burrell’s right hand, but then the driver swung around and pushed Mihalik onto the hood of the squad car and immediately grabbed for the troopers gun. Unable to keep a hold of his gun, 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 Mihalik.  Burrell fired six shots, in which three hit the trooper. One non-fatal round struck him in the chin and two rounds, including the fatal one, struck his chest. 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 five 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.

Trooper 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 U.S. 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.  Mihalik’s body was laid to rest in the Lincoln Township Cemetery, Stevensville, Michigan.

- Chriss Lyon