KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tonganoxie Municipal Court records indicate that the city’s police chief believed Jerron Lightfoot had been given enough breaks in testimony related to a careless driving conviction in December 2022.
Less than two months after that court appearance, Kansas City, Missouri, police and Jackson County prosecutors allege that Lightfoot was driving at least 85 mph when he ran a red light and caused a crash that killed KCPD Officer James Muhlbauer, his K-9 partner Champ and a pedestrian, Jesse Eckes.
During the two years prior to that deadly Feb. 15 crash at the intersection of Truman Road and Benton Boulevard, Lightfoot received a warning after another incident when he allegedly ran a red light while speeding and had the careless driving conviction, but there is no indication that his license was ever suspended or revoked.
According to court records KSHB 41 obtained from a public-records request, Lightfoot was cited for driving a white Ford Fusion sedan 13 to 17 mph over the posted speed limit shortly after 11:15 p.m. on April 7, 2021, near State Avenue and South Park Drive in Tonganoxie.
He also received a warning for running a stoplight during that encounter, but was not charged with a traffic infraction.
Lighfoot, who was 17 years old and had a valid operator’s license at the time, was fined $125 and received a three-month diversion on the speeding charge.
It’s unclear why Lightfoot was cited for careless driving for the incident, but the driving without a valid license charge stemmed from not having the proper class of license (i.e. a motorcycle license), according to police, and was dismissed by prosecutors.
Kansas requires a special endorsement to legally ride a motorcycle — like most, if not all, states.
Lightfoot, who was 18 at the time, paid a $60 fine plus court costs after pleading guilty for careless driving on Dec. 21, 2022, but it was during court proceedings related to that case that Tonganoxie Police Chief Greg Lawson asked the court to make Lightfoot “plea as to what is charged, nothing amended as they already cut many breaks for him,” according to a note in court records.
Lightfoot, 19, has been charged with two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter in the deaths of Muhlbauer and Eckes.
Lightfoot’s next scheduled court appearance is April 11.
After a court hearing late last month, Lightfoot’s lawyer called the deadly crash “tragic and unfortunate” but “not intentional” in a statement, which also offered “sympathy to all those affected.”
Muhlbauer, a 20-year veteran with KCPD who arrested quintuple murderer Brandon Howell during a distinguished career, was laid to rest after a funeral Feb. 22 at Municipal Auditorium.
Champ also received a procession and special honors,
Muhlabuer’s widow, Cassie, has asked for a new prosecutor in the case.
Muhlbauer is the first KCPD officer killed in the line of duty in 22 years, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
KCPD’s union — the Kansas City, Missouri, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 99 — has set up a page to receive memorial contributions for the Muhlbauer family for those wishing to donate.