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Family of Kansas City officer killed in wreck to receive $100K through wrongful death claim

Officer James Muhlbauer and his K-9 partner Champ were on patrol hours after the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Parade when a car crashed into their cruiser


Kansas City police

By Bill Lukitsch
The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The family of a Kansas City police officer killed in a February car wreck will receive a $100,000 insurance settlement through a wrongful death claim brought against the other driver, according to a recent legal filing in Jackson County Circuit Court.

A petition to approve the settlement was filed Friday on behalf of Cassie Muhlbauer and her three children stemming from the death of KCPD Officer James Muhlbauer. It was made jointly with lawyers representing Jerron Lightfoot, 19, who faces two counts of involuntary manslaughter in the crash.

Through the settlement, Lightfoot “denies and disputes any and all liability” to Cassie Muhlbauer, the wife of the officer. The agreement still requires a judge’s approval.

On Feb. 15, hours after the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Parade, James Muhlbauer, 42, and his K-9 partner “Champ” were on duty and driving through the intersection of Benton Boulevard and Truman Road when their KCPD patrol vehicle was struck on its driver’s side.

The patrol car was pushed into 52-year-old pedestrian Jesse Eckes, who was sitting near a concrete traffic signal. James Muhlbauer, his K-9 partner and Eckes died in the crash.

Lightfoot, then 18, allegedly told police his brakes failed.

Surveillance video from a nearby business allegedly showed Lightfoot ran a red light before crashing into the police car.

Detectives also obtained data from the computer in Lightfoot’s car showing he had been driving at 90 miles per hour — far above the posted limit of 35 mph — two seconds before the crash. They also determined the brakes were working as the vehicle slowed substantially before impact.

Jackson County prosecutors charged Lightfoot in February with two counts of involuntary manslaughter. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains free on bond.

Earlier this month, a separate wrongful death claim brought on behalf of Eckes’ three adult children was settled for $100,000. It also was to be paid out by Lightfoot’s insurance carrier.

Lightfoot did not admit any liability in settling that case.

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