Tonganoxie man pleads guilty to causing crash that killed officer, pedestrian and K-9 last February

photo by: Jackson County, Missouri, Detention Center

Jerron A. Lightfoot

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Tonganoxie man has pleaded guilty to smashing into a Kansas City, Missouri, patrol car last year and killing an officer, his K-9 partner and a pedestrian.

Jerron Lightfoot pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of involuntary manslaughter and admitted speeding through a red light before the crash, according to the Kansas City Star. Officer James Muhlbauer, 42, Jesse Eckes, 52, and Champ the dog were all killed.

Lightfoot told the judge that he got lost that night last February while he was driving back toward Kansas.

Prosecutors have said Lightfoot was speeding just before the collision. Lightfoot told officers he tried to stop at the red light but his car’s brakes did not work, prosecutors said. Lightfoot said he felt “a lot of vibration” when he applied the brakes.

photo by: KCMO Police Department via AP

This image provided by the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department shows Police Officer James Muhlbauer and K-9 Officer Champ. Muhlbauer, Champ and a pedestrian were all killed when a driver crashed into the officer’s cruiser on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023.

A check of Lightfoot’s vehicle showed the vehicle’s brakes were working and the vehicle was traveling at 85 mph or more just before impact, prosecutors said.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend no more than 10 years in prison, though Assistant Prosecutor Lauren Whiston said she anticipated that Lightfoot’s lawyers would ask for a much more lenient sentence when the 20-year-old returns to court in April.

Muhlbauer, who was married and a father, was a 20-year veteran of the force. Champ had been a K-9 with the force for a year.

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves attended Friday’s plea hearing along with several uniformed police officers, but she didn’t comment on the case.


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