Jury convicts man of attempted second-degree murder in shooting of Butler County sheriff’s deputy

12/19/2013 11:10 AM

08/08/2014 10:20 AM

A Butler County jury deliberated for just over 2 1/2 hours Thursday before convicting Jan Tracy Kilbourne of attempted second-degree murder in the Sept. 2 shooting of a sheriff’s deputy near Augusta.

Jurors also returned guilty verdicts on charges that Kilbourne, 41, possessed a firearm as a convicted felon and interfered with the work of a law enforcement officer when he fired at Butler County sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Lawrence during an early-morning traffic stop along U.S. 54 near Santa Fe Lake Road.

Kilbourne, who led authorities on a four-day manhunt after he fled the shooting scene, originally had been charged with attempted capital murder in the case – a crime that can draw between 12 and 54 years in prison upon conviction.

But jurors on Thursday were offered an alternative of second-degree murder if they found Kilbourne’s crime did not fit the definition of attempted capital murder.

Sentencing in the case is set for February. The hearing will be held at Butler County Judicial Center, 201 W. Pine. Chief Judge David A. Ricke will preside.

Kilbourne – called “Tracy” by family – appeared visibly shaken following the verdict shortly before 5 p.m. His face was flushed and brow furrowed when deputies escorted him from the courtroom after the three-day trial.

Earlier in the day he had leaned back casually in a chair, listening to the proceedings. He was dressed in a red-and-white plaid, long-sleeved shirt tucked into blue jeans. He wore a short, neatly trimmed beard and cropped hairstyle.

There were no handcuffs or shackles.

His father, Jan Kilbourne of Hugoton, turned down a request for comment on the verdict after it was read. He appeared upset as he left the courtroom.

Lawrence, who appeared in uniform with family members, declined interview requests from media.

During closing arguments Thursday afternoon, attorneys focused on two factors: Did Jan Tracy Kilbourne intend to kill Lawrence? And was the shooting premeditated?

In his statements, Darrin Devinney urged jurors to find that the shooting was premeditated because Kilbourne had stowed a loaded handgun in a backpack beneath the front seat of the car he drove on Sept. 2, knowing that he had a warrant out of Seward County and could be arrested if stopped by law enforcement.

“Mr. Kilbourne kept that gun in his bag, completely loaded and ready to use,” Devinney said.

“ … For Mr. Kilbourne this was his way out and to avoid going to jail.”

Testimony in the three-day trial showed that Kilbourne apparently had pulled over in front of an asphalt plant to check dim headlights on the car he was driving the morning of the shootout.

Lawrence pulled up, discovered Kilbourne’s license was expired, and asked him to switch seats with one of his two passengers.

When the deputy left briefly to radio an emergency dispatcher, the car began to pull away. Lawrence shone his flashlight inside and asked its occupants to wait for him to verify a warrant out of Seward County.

When the deputy returned, Kilbourne drew the handgun and fired.

The bullet lodged in Lawrence’s protective vest. The deputy returned fire, striking Kilbourne in the hip.

“It (premeditation) started hours and hours beforehand,” Devinney said. “It heightened when he pulled over into this parking lot. … It culminated when he pulled that gun out and fired at Deputy Lawrence.

“What I submit to you is that Mr. Kilbourne intended to kill Deputy Lawrence with a lethal shot. But by the grace of God that bullet hit the lip of that vest” instead.

In his closing argument, defense attorney James Watts said that, in firing the gun, Kilbourne intended only to scare the deputy so he had time to flee.

He knew of the warrant, Watts said, and didn’t want to be incarcerated. That, he argued, failed to meet the definition of an intent to kill required by the capital charge.

“Is it a good plan?” Watts asked. “It’s not really a plan at all on Mr. Kilbourne’s part. It’s an impulse.

“Was it a dumb idea? Yup,” he continued. “... But it was an impulse.”

Watts also urged the jurors to find his client not guilty because, he said, Lawrence’s account of events, including the location of a flashlight the deputy reportedly dropped after the shooting, did not match physical evidence found at the scene.

“If Mr. Kilbourne wanted to shoot the deputy he had the opportunity to do that. Deputy Lawrence approached him three times” at the car, Watts told jurors.

He added: “What Mr. Kilbourne was bent on is escaping,” not killing.

Jurors began deliberations shortly after 2 p.m. Thursday. About 50 minutes in, they were recalled to court and ordered to disregard one of Devinney’s comments after Kilbourne’s attorney told the judge the statement misstated the law regarding intent.

The verdict was returned about 90 minutes later.

Records show that Jan Tracy Kilbourne has multiple misdemeanor and felony convictions, including drug and traffic offenses, stretching back for more than a decade. He also served time in prison on a 2002 drug possession case, according to the Kansas Department of Corrections.

That history is expected to affect the length of the sentence imposed in February.

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