Trooper’s killer sentenced

Christopher Grant

An East St. Louis man charged in the fatal shooting of Illinois State Police Trooper Nick Hopkins of Waterloo in 2019 was sentenced Tuesday in federal court to nearly 40 years in prison.

Christopher Grant, 47, was ordered to serve 480 months, with credit given for 27 months already served. In addition, Grant must serve three years of probation upon his release from prison.

A federal prisoner must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence absent a compassionate release.

Appearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel on Tuesday in federal court, Grant apologized to the Hopkins family and the Illinois State Police.

Hopkins’ mother Verna and wife Whitney both spoke at the sentencing hearing, seeking justice for their late son and husband.

Both spoke of Hopkins’ smile, work ethic and love of family.

Whitney recently gave birth to the couple’s fourth child via in vitro fertilization.

Grant entered a negotiated plea of guilty back in July. Grant had pleaded guilty to use of a firearm to commit murder in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, maintaining a drug house, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and three counts of distributing crack cocaine.

U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft asked for a life sentence. Defense attorneys for Grant sought a sentence of 25 years for their client.

On Aug. 23, 2019, the Waterloo community was rocked by news of Hopkins’ death. He was part of a SWAT team executing an early morning search warrant at a residence near Caseyville Avenue and North 42nd Street in East St. Louis.

Court information states Grant was using the home to distribute drugs. As Hopkins and other SWAT team members were placing chains from the front hooks of a police Ford F350 to a set of steel bars on the front door to remove the door, Grant awoke from the commotion and fired three shots from his couch. 

One bullet struck Hopkins in the head as he was walking away from the porch.

The 33-year-old Hopkins, a 10-year ISP veteran, died from his injuries later that day at Saint Louis University Hospital. His death was the first of an ISP SWAT team member in 20 years.

Hopkins’ body and organs were donated to help save up to 40 people.

Grant told officers he was sleeping in the living room close to the front door when activity on the porch woke him up. Grant claimed he suspected someone was there to rob him, as he had been robbed of cash and drugs roughly two weeks prior. 

As part of his guilty plea, Grant admitted he had been sleeping on a 9 mm handgun and that he fired the gun toward whoever was on his porch.

Grant was selling crack cocaine and marijuana out of his home, court information states. Undercover officers had purchased drugs from Grant three times in June and July 2019 before being granted a search warrant.

During those drug buys, officers saw AR-15 and AK-47-style rifles and handguns, prosecutors said.

Hopkins’ father, longtime Waterloo Alderman Jim Hopkins, said he was pleased with Tuesday’s sentence.

“I had faith in the system, and the system did prevail,” Jim told the Republic-Times following the hearing.

Jim added that it has been a tough two years, but the family is stronger today.

“Nick was such a wonderful guy,” Jim said. “Really, nobody won here. There’s no winners in this.”

Grant still faces 10 felony charges in St. Clair County Circuit Court, including first degree murder.

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