KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old man was charged Thursday with capital murder in the death of a Kansas police officer fatally shot inside his patrol car while investigating a drive-by shooting, a prosecutor said.
Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman said Jamaal R. Lewis fired the shots Tuesday that killed 46-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, police Capt. Robert Melton. Lewis also faces charges of aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a weapon from an incident earlier Tuesday.
A second man, 18-year-old DaQon J. Sipple, has been charged with aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer involving a different officer than Melton and with criminal discharge of a weapon.
Lewis and Sipple, both from Kansas City, Kansas, have been in custody since Tuesday. It’s unclear whether they have lawyers yet who could comment on the allegations.
They are expected to make their first court appearances in the case Friday. Bond has been set at $10 million for Lewis and $100,000 for Sipple, Gorman said.
Prosecutors haven’t determined whether to pursue the death penalty against Lewis, Gorman said, adding that it could take months before that decision is made.
Neither defendant has an adult criminal record, the district attorney said.
“Our hearts go out to the Melton family,” Gorman said at a news conference to announce the charges. “And we also want to send those same thoughts out to the entire Kansas City, Kansas, law enforcement community and all law enforcement here in the metro area and across the United States.”
Police Chief Terry Zeigler has said Melton appears to have been shot by someone trying to elude authorities and that it wasn’t part of a planned ambush.
Melton was shot after police responded to a report of several people in a car firing shots. A vehicle believed to be connected to the gunfire took off as officers arrived, but it crashed into a fence, police have said. Two people were taken into custody just minutes after the wreck.
Melton was alone searching for an additional drive-by shooting suspect when he drove up to a person who matched a description of someone possibly involved. Before the officer could get out of his unmarked police cruiser, he was shot several times through his passenger-side window and died later at a hospital.
Gorman said Thursday that Melton was gunned with rounds from a .40-caliber handgun that investigators believe they have located. He said Sipple fired seven or eight shots from a 9 mm handgun in the earlier gunfire, which left no one injured.
Lewis was the getaway driver in the earlier shooting, he said.
Melton was a 17-year veteran of the department and also served in the Kansas Army National Guard. He was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan before he retired in 2012, according to the guard.
“Nothing’s ever going to replace, you know, Melton to any of us,” officer Amber Thomas, a department spokeswoman, said Thursday after the news conference. “I mean it’s a huge hole that’s left in this department. But it does help to know that those guys aren’t out there to kill somebody else, whether it be a fellow officer or just an innocent bystander.”
Melton’s death is the second fatal shooting of a Kansas City, Kansas, police officer this year. On May 9, detective Brad Lancaster was fatally shot near the Kansas Speedway — the first shooting in the department in 19 years.
Curtis Ayers, of Tonganoxie, is charged with capital murder in Lancaster’s death. Ayers is accused of shooting the detective in Kansas City, Kansas, and then fleeing in a car to Missouri, where police shot and wounded Ayers.
Suhr reported from Kansas City, Missouri.
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