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Man pleads guilty for role in 2023 death of KCPD officer Muhlbauer, Jesse Eckes, K-9

Jerron Lightfoot faces up to 10 years in prison
Jerron Lightfoot Jackson County Circuit Court
Jerron Lightfoot 2023 Mug Shot.png
Posted at 3:45 PM, Feb 23, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 20-year-old Kansas man pleaded guilty Friday in connection to a crash in February 2023 that killed Kansas City, Missouri, Police officer James Muhlbauer, pedestrian Jesse Eckes and police K-9 Champ.

LINK | Community remembers KCPD Officer Muhlbauer

KSHB 41's Kevin Holmes was inside the Jackson County Circuit Court courtroom Friday and reports Jerron Lightfoot pleaded guilty to two counts of felony first-degree involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Muhlbauer and Eckes.

According to the plea agreement, Lightfoot faces up to 10 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has been set for 9:30 a.m. on April 24. As part of the agreement, Lightfoot's sentences in the two deaths will be served concurrently instead of back-to-back.

Family members for both victims declined additional comment Friday.

The Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's office read a statement as part of Friday's hearing.

"We have two families deeply impacted by the events in this case. We anticipate they may present different requests of this court - with one asking you to impose the maximum sentence under the plea agreement and the other asking you to consider a much lesser sentence. With that in mind, we are asking the court to order a Sentencing Assessment Report which we believe will help the Court in deciding an appropriate sentence here."

The charges stem from an incident on Feb. 15, 2023 at the intersection of Truman Road and Benton Boulevard in which Lightfoot ran a red light at Truman Road while traveling at speeds nearly double the posted speed limit.

At the intersection, Lightfoot collided with a KCPD patrol car driven by Muhlbauer.

The collision pinned a pedestrian underneath the wreckage, killing Eckes.

Eckes' children filed a wrongful death lawsuit last year against Lightfoot.

A Jackson County Circuit Court judge approved a settlement last July, awarding the family $100,000.

RELATED | Jesse Eckes' children file wrongful-death lawsuit against Jerron Lightfoot

Champ, a police K-9 officer in the back seat of Muhlbauer’s patrol car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Muhlbauer was transported to a nearby hospital where he died from his injuries.

Muhlbauer is the officer who arrested Brandon Howell after he murdered five people in south Kansas City's Woodbridge Community in 2014.