A manhunt began Monday for a 39-year-old man charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting and killing a western Missouri police officer during a routine traffic stop.

Officer Gary Michael, 37, of Clinton, Missouri, was allegedly shot Sunday by Ian McCarthy and succumbed to injuries before his death at a local hospital. McCarthy has been charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of armed criminal action, Missouri State Highway Patrol said citing court papers. 

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Michael, who had served less than a year with the police department, pulled over a vehicle around 10:45 p.m. EDT for a suspected registration violation, according to Sgt. Bill Lowe of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

As Michael exited his vehicle in order to talk to the suspect, who was driving a Dodge Nitro, McCarthy allegedly also got out of his car and started shooting before running away and crashing his vehicle into an embankment, just about four blocks away from the scene, Sgt. Lowe said, Kansas City Star reported.

Sgt. Lowe said Michael returned fire, but it was not clear if he hit the suspect, who was said to have fled on foot after he crashed his vehicle. "We're not sure if any of those rounds struck the suspect, but Officer Michael was fatally wounded," Lowe said.

Before the shots were fired, Michael was able to provide a description of the vehicle with Missouri plate registered in McCarthy's name, according to the police. "It’s an unprovoked attack on Officer Michael," Sgt. Lowe told the Washington Post. "We’re trying to hopefully draw this to a conclusion so we can figure out why it happened."

"It’s a tragedy, obviously, for his family, it’s a tragedy for Clinton Police Department but it’s a tragedy for this community," Sgt. Lowe told KCTV. "He was doing his job, you know, he was there protecting and serving and that’s what we’re called to do, and he did it with heroic fashion."

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The incident was a shock for Michael's family and friends and condolences poured in from the local law enforcement agencies.

"He just enjoyed people, he enjoyed life in general," Jamie Judd, a family friend of Michael, said. "He enjoyed going out and fishing." 

Michael's brother, Chris Michael, hailed him as a hero.

"He was my big brother, he was my hero when I was three and he's my hero today."

But Chris said he won't resort to violence because of the pain caused to him by the death of his brother as he's more concerned about his family and the community.

"I'm not angry at this moment," he said. "It was one man's bad decision. I'm sad. I'm very sad but my brother was part of a police department and a community that will bring this man to justice."

Michael completed his graduation from Clinton High School in 1998,  according to his Linkedin profile. He served in the U.S. Army before becoming a police officer. He also worked for a car dealership in Olathe, Missouri, and as a project manager for a property management company. He later started his own project management company, Readi Enterprises, which he managed from 2014 till he entered the police academy in 2016.

Michael’s mother, Darrolyn Lauderdale, wrote a tribute to her son on her Facebook page. It was her birthday on Sunday — the day her son died. 

"I want to tell you about my son Gary Lee Michael Jr. a loving and kind soul who grew tall and strong in body and mind. He served his country in the U.S. Army. After returning home and finding his feet, not to mention the love of his life, he achieved his dream of becoming a police officer," Lauderdale wrote in the post.

Michael is survived by his wife Cresinda — whom he married in 2015 — and his stepsons, police said.