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State Trooper Recovering; Suspects Identified

The Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper injured in a shooting incident is expected to make a full recovery after being shot in the chest Wednesday evening during a traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Henderson County.

According to the Department of Safety, Trooper Dwayne Stanford was returning to Jackson from training in Nashville when he pulled over a vehicle for traffic related violations at approximately 5:20 p.m. in the west bound lane of I-40 near mile marker 115. Trooper Stanford took the female driver, Christi Pepper, 47, of Cadiz, Ky., into custody for an outstanding criminal warrant.

Officials say that while Trooper Stanford was returning to the stopped vehicle, a male passenger, Robert Cunningham, Jr., 50, also of Cadiz, Ky., stepped out and fired a weapon. Trooper Stanford returned fire, and shot and killed Cunningham. Trooper Stanford was shot once in the chest during the incident. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest. Trooper Stanford was transported to Jackson-Madison County General Hospital.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting. Trooper Stanford has been relieved of duty with pay until the conclusion of the investigation, which is standard procedure in any trooper shooting incident.

“Our state troopers face dangers every day, especially during traffic stops. Trooper Stanford’s experience on I-40 is an unfortunate reminder of that,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “Our state troopers are Tennessee’s finest. When citizens encounter state troopers, I hope they will take just a moment to thank them for their public service, courage, and sacrifice,” Gibbons added.

"Trooper Stanford is one of our best and brightest troopers on the road. He is well respected by his peers and the command staff. His training and experience helped save his life," Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott said.

Trooper Stanford joined the Department of Safety and Homeland Security in 2002 as a Communications Dispatcher and was later commissioned as a State Trooper in 2007. His initial assignment was as a Road Trooper in Fayette County until being transferred to Henderson County in the Jackson District in 2008.

Trooper Stanford earned the 2010 Trooper of the Year honor for locating a juvenile who was kidnapped out of Maryland within 20 minutes of an AMBER Alert notification. He arrested the suspect without incident and preserved potential evidence in the case. Trooper Stanford was also recognized in 2010 as one of the top 10 Troopers in DUI Enforcement with 30 arrests.

Trooper Stanford is a third generation trooper in the Tennessee Highway Patrol.

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