Michael Bushnell

A Jackson County Judge sentenced Jerron Allen Lightfoot of Tonganoxie, Kansas to 10 years in prison for the February 2023 deaths of Kansas City MO Police Officer James Muhlbauer, his K-9 partner Champ and Jesse Eckes, who was standing near the intersection of Truman Road and Benton Boulevard when the accident occurred.  Lightfoot pleaded guilty in February to two counts of Involuntary Manslaughter in the 1st Degree.

Jerron Allen Lightfoot

According to court records, KCPD officers responded to the area of Truman Road and Benton Blvd. on a vehicular crash on the evening of February 15th, 2023. Upon arrival, officers witnessed a man standing by a white Ford Fusion, one of the crashed vehicles. The man was later identified as Jerron Allen Lightfoot, the driver and sole occupant of the vehicle.

Officers also noted that the other vehicle in the collision was a marked police vehicle that had been traveling east on Truman Road. The police vehicle had been driven by officer James M. Muhlbauer, found in the driver’s seat unresponsive. Officers also noted Muhlbauer was wearing a seatbelt. A police K-9, Champ, was also witnessed by responding officers as deceased in the back seat area of the police car.

Officer Muhlbauer was transported to an area hospital and later pronounced deceased. Responding officers also found a second victim under the police vehicle, later identified as Jesse Eckes. Eckes had recently found housing through a local agency and was known for his generosity.

Jesse Eckes

According to court records, video footage from the area of the crash showed the police officer was traveling eastbound at Truman and Benton and had a green light at the intersection. The white Ford was traveling southbound on Benton Boulevard at a high rate of speed and failed to stop at the traffic signal just prior to striking the police vehicle.

As part of the investigation, a warrant was obtained to search the Ford’s ECM (Electronic Control Module) which showed that the vehicle’s brakes were in working order just prior to the crash and the vehicle was traveling at 85 mph or more just before impact

Prosecutors in the case asked the judge to sentence Lightfoot to 10 years in prison. Lightfoot’s attorneys sought probation. On April 24, the judge  sentenced the defendant to 10 years on each conviction, then set those sentences to run concurrently for a total sentence of 10 years. Lightfoot will also get credit for his time served during the trial which totals a little over a year, bringing his remaining sentence down to under nine years.