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Man sentenced to 18 years in deadly 2019 First Fridays shooting

Erin Langhofer, 25, killed by Deon’te Copkney
langhofer family
Erin Langhofer Pic.jpg
Posted at 1:26 PM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 18:26:47-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Nearly two years after her death, Erin Langhofer’s killer has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Deon’te Copkney, 20, faced second-degree murder and armed criminal action charges for the Aug. 2, 2019 shooting at First Fridays in the Crossroads Arts District.

Tuesday, Copkney was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge, and three for the armed criminal action charged.

He will get credit for the two years he's already served and the sentences will run concurrently, so Copkney will spend the next 16 years behind bars.

Erin Langhofer's family told the judge the bright, optimistic 25-year-old had dreams, potential, and a future — and Copkney stole all of it.

The prosecution told the judge he made conscious decisions that night, and urged Judge John Torrence to issue the maximum sentence of 20 years.

Copkney was in a fight with another man near East 18th Street and Main Street.

Langhofer and her boyfriend were waiting in line at a nearby food truck when the shots rang out.

One of Copkney’s bullets struck her in the head.

Two people who were at the First Friday event testified, telling the judge the trauma they witnessed will impact them forever.

James Saffold was selling T-shirts at a booth that evening. As he and his family were packing up, he said he saw the fight and Copkney pull out a gun from his pants. Saffold said he saw the defendant run further up the street and heard multiple gun shots.

Saffold said he later found a bullet hole and the slug in the hood of his car, close to where his pregnant wife was sitting. He said he'll never go back to First Friday again and can't be in large crowds.

Michelle Madison said she and her family were at the food trucks, where Langhofer was standing with friends. She heard gunshots and said everything was chaos. She said she saw Langhofer laying on the ground and tried to find a pulse.

"I wish there had been a different choice he made that night," Madison said, referring to Copkney.

Copkney was apprehended by off-duty Kansas City, Missouri, police officers working security at the event after a short pursuit.

He told police he fired into the air, but evidence contradicted that statement.

In May, Copkney pleaded guilty to the charges in Langhofer’s murder.

Kathryn Langhofer, Erin's sister, told the judge they weren't just sisters but life partners who planned to do everything together.

"I initially didn't want to speak and I just felt over the last couple weeks especially, you can do this. She wants you to do this, this would make her so proud. And I know she was with me up there keeping me calm and able to speak, so I wouldn't have been able to do it without her there," she said.

Thomas Lamansky, Erin's boyfriend, shared his traumatic account of that night. He was standing right next to her when she was shot. He said he tried to do anything he could to keep her alive, but knew she was gone.

"I will never forgive him," Lamansky said. "He took the love of my life, the woman I planned to spend the rest of my life with."

Loved ones asked the judge to consider Langhofer's death as not only a great loss to the family but the community. She worked as a social worker, counseling domestic violence victims at the Rose Brooks Center.

"Nobody's winning, nobody wins," Tom Langhofer said, Erin's dad. "Their family doesn't win. Everybody loses."

The family said the ongoing court process prevented them from grieving normally.

"It's two years in another week, and it will be nice to have this kind of negative, ugly piece of this behind us," Marcy Langhofer, Erin's mom, said. "We'll really enjoy moving forward remembering all the great things about Erin that we love."

Copkney's family asked for lenience, saying he made a mistake and has no prior criminal record.

Copkney's attorney, Willis Toney, suggested prison time for the armed criminal action conviction and supervised probation, telling Judge Torrence he will have "created a criminal" if Copkney was put in jail for 20 years.

His cousin and aunt said he has apologized repeatedly since he was arrested.

A cousin, Shamaya Vann, showed the judge an art project Copkney made when he was 10, talking about all the things he used to like. She said he had a supportive family.

Copkney said this after his sentencing:

"I just want to say I'm sorry for what happened and I hope they can forgive me, however long it takes."

The Langhofer family even said they would forgive him.

"It's going to be a process, but our faith tells us that we will forgive, it teaches us that we will forgive him," Tom Langhofer said.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the amount of time Copkney has left to serve in prison.

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