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18-year-old charged with death of KCPD officer, pedestrian, K-9 officer

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Tonganoxie man was charged with two counts of manslaughter in the crash that killed a Kansas City, Missouri police officer, a pedestrian, and the officer’s K-9 partner.

Jerron Allen Lightfoot, 18, faces two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, Jackson County Attorney Jean Peters Baker’s office announced Friday morning.

Manslaughter — a Class C felony, defined under Missouri law as “recklessly” causing the death of a person — is punishable by three to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine per count.

According to court documents, KCPD officers responded at approximately 10:15 p.m. Wednesday at East Truman Road and Benton Boulevard to a reported incident.

Lightfoot was standing next to a white Ford Fusion, one of the crashed vehicles, when officers arrived. He told officers he was not injured: “Yes, I’m fine, my brakes have failed.”

According to a probable cause statement from the KCPD, the other vehicle was a tagged police car driven by Officer James Muhlbauer, who was unconscious in the driver’s seat and wearing a seat belt when they arrived.

His K-9 partner, Champ, was in the back seat of the car and already dead.

Muhlbauer was transported to an area hospital and later died.

Police also found a second person, described as a man in his 50s, dead under the police vehicle.

“My office spoke with the family of our victim officer Thursday night,” Baker said in a statement. “We have not yet been able to meet with the family of our pedestrian victim prior to this filing, but will meet with that victim’s family soon. We extend our condolences to the bereaved families and the police department. We are grateful for the pace of the police department’s investigative work that allowed us to make these allegations so quickly.”

The charges are for the deaths of Muhlbauer and the pedestrian. The prosecutor’s office said a person must “knowingly” injure or kill a K-9 officer to be criminally charged under Missouri law.

Muhlbauer is the KCPD officer who arrested quintuple killer Brandon Howell on Sept. 2, 2014, ending an hour-long manhunt after he killed five people in a South KCMO neighborhood.

Courtesy of KCPD

Kansas City, Missouri, police officer James “Jim” Muhlbauer, who died Wednesday night in a two-vehicle crash, arrested one of the city’s most notorious killers in recent history nine years ago. Muhlbauer and his K-9 officer, Champ, were killed along with a pedestrian in a crash near Truman Road and Benton Boulevard.

He was a 20-year veteran with KCPD and spent the previous three years with the K-9 unit.

According to a video review during the investigation, Muhlbauer was heading east on Truman Road and had a green light at the intersection.

Court records show that the white Ford was heading south on Benton Boulevard at high speed and did not stop for a light.

Investigators checked the white Ford’s electronic system, which showed the vehicle’s brakes were working just prior to the crash and that the vehicle was traveling 85 mph or more just prior to impact.

A witness at the scene said he saw a white Ford fail to stop at a red light and hit a police vehicle. He said the impact sent the white Ford flying.

Investigators reviewed surveillance video from two separate businesses near the crash scene as part of the investigation.

KSHB Digital In-Depth Reporter Tod Palmer contributed to this report.

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