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Tonganoxie man charged in KCPD officer, pedestrian, K-9’s death appears in court

Jerron Lightfoot Jackson County Circuit Court
Posted at 2:57 PM, Feb 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-27 17:24:08-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The 19-year-old Tonganoxie man accused of speeding through a red light and causing a crash with the Kansas City, Missouri, police cruiser that killed two people and a KCPD K-9 appeared Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

KCPD Officer James “Jim” Muhlbauer and his K-9 Champ were killed along with a pedestrian, Jesse Eckes, in a two-vehicle crash around 10:15 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Benton Boulevard and Truman Road intersection.

Jerron Lightfoot, who is charged with two counts of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, arrived in the Division 29 courtroom inside the Albert A. Riederer Community Justice Complex a few minutes before his scheduled appearance wearing a black suit jacket over a gray shirt with the top few buttons undone.

He did not speak during the brief bond-review hearing, which Judge Janette K. Rodecap called something of “a moot point” since Lightfoot was released from the Jackson County Detention Center on Monday, Feb. 20.

His bond, which was posted Feb. 17, was set at $30,000 with a 10% option. Lightfoot quickly posted a $3,000 bond and was released from the Jackson County Detention Center with certain bond conditions, including house arrest and an order not to drive.

Responding to a question from the judge, Jackson County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Whiston said she "would not anticipate an offer will be made" to give Lightfoot a plea agreement.

The judge granted a continuance in the case until April 11.

After a brief stop on a different floor in the building, Lightfoot left the justice center shortly before 2 p.m. — now wearing a facemask, which he did not wear inside the courtroom where cameras were prohibited.

He didn’t answer any questions before climbing into the passenger seat of a black Ford Mustang hatchback driven by his attorney, Lance Sandage.

Jerron Lightfoot Lance Sandage court appearance
Jerron Lightfoot, the 18-year-old Tonganoxie man, who allegedly killed Kansas City, Missouri, Police Officer James Muhlbauer, his K-9 partner Champ and pedestrian Jesse Eckes in a Feb. 15 crash appeared Monday in Jackson County Circuit Court. He left his attorney, Lance Sandage, without making any comment.

Lightfoot, who was still 18 at the time, allegedly was driving around 85 mph when he blew through a red light and caused the deadly crash.

“Mr. Lightfoot is presumed innocent, and we will let the criminal justice system play out,” Sandage said in a statement handed to reporters outside the justice center. “The events that unfolded on February 15, [sic] are tragic and unfortunate. But as the charges suggest, Mr. Lightfoot’s alleged actions were not intentional. Mr. Lightfoot and his family offer sympathy to all those affected by this unfortunate event.”

RELATED | 'He did his very best': Muhlbauer’s parents remember fallen son

Muhlbauer and Champ were laid to rest during a public funeral Feb. 22 at Municipal Auditorium.

His widow and daughter also were in the courtroom Monday, but requested privacy and did not provide a statement.

Muhlbauer was a 20-year veteran with KCPD, including the last three years with the K-9 Unit, and arrested one of the city’s most notorious murderers in 2014.

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Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the KSHB 41 News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015. Read the KSHB 41 News Mug Shot Policy.