The Jackson County Prosecutor has charged 18-year-old Jerron Allen Lightfoot of Tonganoxie, Kan., with the death of a Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) officer, his canine partner and a pedestrian in a Wednesday evening crash at Benton Boulevard and Truman Road.
Lightfoot is charged with two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter 1st Degree, a Class C Felony, in connection with the death of KCPD Officer James Muhlbauer and an innocent pedestrian, identified only as J.E., a 50-something male, in charging documents. Officer Muhlbauer’s K9 partner Officer Champ also died in the collision.
Court documents show that Lightfoot was the operator and sole occupant of the vehicle that struck Officer Muhlbauer’s patrol car Wednesday evening, pushing it into the pedestrian.
According to charging documents, Officer Muhlbauer was traveling eastbound on Truman Road in his department issue Ford Crown Victoria through a green traffic signal when Lightfoot’s vehicle, traveling southbound on Benton Boulevard at a high rate of speed, ran the red traffic signal, striking Officer Muhlbauer’s vehicle in the driver’s door. A witness at the scene noted that the impact caused the rear of Lightfoot’s vehicle to become airborne. That witness called 911 and remained at the scene until additional officers arrived.
The witness also saw Lightfoot exit his vehicle, appearing not to be injured. The witness next checked the condition of the police officer and found him to be unconscious but with a pulse. K9 Champ was found to be deceased in the second row compartment of the police vehicle. Officer Muhlbauer was transported to an area hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.
First responders found the pedestrian under Officer Muhlbauer’s vehicle.
When Lightfoot was contacted by officers at the scene he indicated he was okay and stated that the brakes on his Ford Fusion went out.
Detectives reviewed the dash cam video of the police vehicle and found that it was traveling at 33 mph through the green traffic signal at the time of the impact. After obtaining a search warrant, a review of the Fusion’s Airbag Control Module (ACM) showed that at two seconds prior to impact, Lightfoot’s vehicle was traveling at 89.7 mph. Court documents show that Lightfoot’s vehicle struck Officer Muhlbauer’s vehicle at 62.3 mph. Data from the ACM also shows that the vehicle’s brakes were functioning as designed due to the driver’s ability to shave 27.4 mph off his speed before striking the police vehicle.
Lightfoot indicated he had just dropped his girlfriend off at a nearby gas station and was en route back to his home in Tonganoxie. He also indicated that when he attempted to apply his brakes for the red traffic signal, the vehicle vibrated badly. Lightfoot also denied drug or alcohol use prior to the crash.
“My office spoke Thursday evening with the family of our officer victim,” Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said. “We have not yet been able to meet with the family of our pedestrian victim prior to this filing, but we will meet soon with that victim’s family. We extend our condolences to both grieving families and the police department. We are grateful for the pace of the police department’s investigative work that allowed us to file these charges so quickly.”
Lightfoot remains in custody. Each felony charge carries a sentence of three to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.