KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City, Missouri, Police Officer James Muhlbauer and his partner, K-9 Officer Champ, were killed in a two-vehicle crash, which also left a pedestrian dead, around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday near Truman Road and Benton Boulevard.
Chief of Police Stacey Graves announced the names of the two slain KCPD officers at an emotional news conference Thursday afternoon.
“Our department is hurting,” Graves said. “We’re sad and we’re shaken, but this pales in comparison to what Officer Muhlbauer’s family is going through. ... Please pray for the Muhlbauer family. They need strength and love. And this department, while grieving, will be there for them.”
The name of the pedestrian has not yet been released, but Graves said he was a man in his 50s.
Muhlbauer, who went by Jim, spent 20 years on patrol for KCPD, including the last three years with the K-9 unit. He leaves behind a wife and child.
Muhlbauer is the officer who arrested Brandon Howell after he murdered five people in south Kansas City's Woodbridge Community in 2014.
“It was rough last night," Graves said. "Our officers are hurting/ They’re shaken; they’re upset obviously. I can tell you last night the bond and the camaraderie of our K-9 officers was something to see. They wanted to be sure that Champ and Jim were transported together for their hero’s escort.”
K-9 officers live with their assigned patrol officer and are considered part of the family.
Graves thanked the officers who responded to the scene of the crash and those who responded to the hospital, where Muhlbauer died.
She singled out the North Kansas City Police Department for transporting Champ to the hospital to be reunited with Muhlbauer.
No information was provided about the driver of the vehicle that Graves said struck the officer’s vehicle.
She said possible impairment is under investigation and the case will be forwarded once complete to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for consideration of charges.
“Preliminarily, this was not the fault of the officer,” Graves said.
This is KCPD’s first line-of-duty death in 22 years and the 121st overall.
The last KCPD to die on duty was Ofc. Craig Schultz, who was killed May 9, 2001, in a motorcycle crash.
Nine KCPD have died in automobile crashes and 13 in motorcycle crashes, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
There now have been four KCPD K-9s killed in the line of duty, but this is the first since 2007.
The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99, the union that represents KCPD, has set up a website for those wishing to donate to Muhlbauer's family.