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Local Driver Was ‘Cut Many Breaks’ Before Crash that Killed 2, Including KC Officer

Katie Moore, Bill Lukitsch

A 19-year-old Tonganoxie man charged as the driver in a car crash last month that killed a Kansas City police officer and a pedestrian had a history of traffic citations, records show. About six months before the fatal crash that claimed the lives of Kansas City Police Department Officer James Muhlbauer, his police dog Champ and pedestrian Jesse Eckes, Jerron A. Lightfoot had been cited for careless driving. On Aug. 3, 2022, he was stopped for driving without a valid license and careless driving, Tonganoxie police records said. A note on the docket from Police Chief Greg Lawson read, “defendant needs to plea as to what is charged, nothing amended as they already cut many breaks for him.” In an email Wednesday, Lawson said, “In light of the pending criminal case in Kansas City, Missouri, I believe it would be inappropriate for me to comment. That process is an important one, and we do not want to inadvertently interfere with any upcoming criminal proceedings.” The license charge was dismissed and Lightfoot pleaded guilty to careless driving. The case was closed on Dec. 21, 2022. Prior to that, Leavenworth County documents show he was issued a traffic infraction on Oct. 4, 2021, when he was driving 87 mph in a 65 mph zone. He entered into a diversion agreement and the case was dismissed in March 2022. According to documents from the Tonganoxie Police Department, Lightfoot was also cited for speeding 13-17 mph over the limit and issued a warning for running a stop light on April 7, 2021. He was ordered to pay $125.

On Feb. 15, Jerron A. Lightfoot, of Tonganoxie, crashed into a Kansas City Police Department patrol car near Truman Road and Benton Boulevard. The impact caused a secondary collision where a man was struck. Court documents allege Lightfoot was traveling at nearly 90 mph two seconds before impact and ran a red light. Lightfoot was charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter by Jackson County prosecutors. He was released from jail after posting a $3,000 bond. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

More Mike Mansur, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office, said they review a person’s criminal history in all cases. “Because it is a pending case, the ethical rules do not permit us to comment on a charged person or their pending case,” Mansur added. “This case is deeply important to the victims’ families and our community. We look forward to presenting the evidence at the appropriate time.”

John Picerno, a criminal defense attorney in Kansas City who is not associated with the case, said past municipal cases are not typically admissible during a trial. A defendant’s past cases, however, could be brought up by prosecutors during the sentencing phase.

Last week, Cassie Muhlbauer, widow of James Muhlbauer, sent a letter to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey saying she believes the prosecutor’s office is “anti-police” and called for another prosecutor to step in. The letter also said she and her supporters want assurances that if Lightfoot is convicted, he will spend time in prison. Under Missouri law, he faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count of first-degree involuntary manslaughter if convicted. Lightfoot’s next court date is scheduled for April 11. This story was originally published March 15, 2023, 12:41 PM. Related stories from Kansas City Star Government & Politics ‘Anti-police’: Widow of Kansas City cop killed in wreck wants prosecutor to step aside March 08, 2023 9:01 PM Local Facing criticism, prosecutor explains charges in death of KC police officer, K-9

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