Search widens for suspect in Butler County deputy shooting

The hunt for a man suspected of wounding a Butler County sheriff’s deputy has gone from intensely local to extremely wide – all the way to Mexico.

“We’ve notified the Border Patrol,” Sheriff Kelly Herzet said Tuesday afternoon.

Because the suspect was wounded when the deputy returned fire in a shooting Monday morning, investigators have notified hospitals as far away as Kansas City, Oklahoma and western Kansas, Herzet said.

Detectives will be headed to Liberal and Hutchinson, where the suspect – identified as 41-year-old Jan Tracy Kilbourne – has ties or has stayed, Herzet said. Sheriff’s investigators are being assisted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

At the Zernco office building along U.S. 54 near where the shooting occurred, Ashley Thill said Tuesday that she was relieved that the bullets flew on a holiday when employees weren’t around.

Standing outside her office building, Thill, president of the general contracting business, nodded at a gouge in the brick wall facing U.S. 54 near Santa Fe Lake Road. The gouge apparently was left by a bullet from the shooting. Near the front entrance, crime scene investigators have marked the gouge with a yellow “X” and blue tape.

Investigators think the bullet likely came from the deputy firing in self-defense and that the bullet ricocheted off a vehicle the suspect was in, Herzet said.

Herzet said earlier Tuesday that he doubted that the suspect remains in the area where the incident occurred.

The sheriff didn’t plan on mounting another intense search in the area around U.S. 54 and Santa Fe Lake Road, as was done Monday. That search included more than 100 officers, search-dog teams and helicopters from the Wichita Police Department and Kansas Highway Patrol.

“We searched every little nook and cranny, ravine, building,” he said.

At the intersection Tuesday morning, it was quiet except for the traffic, the crickets and the bluejays. But authorities are still checking the area and actively investigating, and other agencies are involved in watching out for the suspect, Herzet said.

“Everybody’s on alert,” he said. “They want to find this guy. We’ve got a deputy shot.”

Authorities said Monday that Kilbourne is suspected of shooting the deputy after the deputy stopped a suspicious car near U.S. 54 and Santa Fe Lake Road at 5:15 a.m. Monday. The suspect, who had been in the front passenger seat, shot the officer in the right shoulder; the deputy’s bulletproof vest stopped the bullet but not its entire impact.

“The deputy is in good spirits,” Herzet said. “He’s recovering at home.”

The deputy returned fire during the incident, and the suspect was hit by the bullet or flying glass and ran off, Herzet has said.

Two other people in the car, a male driver and his girlfriend, have been released after being interviewed by investigators, Herzet said.

Authorities had sought Kilbourne since he had stopped reporting to a probation officer in Seward County in July. His convictions include criminal threat, criminal possession of a firearm, fleeing law enforcement and drug possession, state records show.

Part of the investigation involves tracking possible acquaintances of the suspect through cellphones found in the car, Herzet said.

“He’s going to surface somewhere,” the sheriff said.

The area that the suspect apparently fled into is dominated by pastures with chest-high weeds and bordered by dense tree lines. Homes, many with outbuildings, dot the area.

The sheriff said he’s asking the public to remain alert and to immediately report anything suspicious or out of the ordinary to 911. Authorities checked out several such calls through the night Monday.

He said anyone with information about the case can reach sheriff’s investigators at 316-322-4257.

At New Beginnings Salon, on the corner at U.S. 54 and Santa Fe Lake Road, “We’re just staying real cautious, real alert,” said a woman who asked that her name not be used.

The location is safe partly because it is easily visible to the sometimes heavy traffic nearby, she said. But because the salon sits close to where the shooting happened and the suspect fled, she said, she wonders whether that’s why traffic to her salon seemed slow Tuesday.

“Once they catch him, we’ll all be breathing easier,” she said.

Kilbourne was described Monday as wearing blue jeans, a red shirt and black biker boots. He has facial hair. According to Kansas Department of Corrections Records, he is about 5 feet, 5 inches tall and has weighed about 200 pounds. He is thought to be armed.

Thill, at the business near where the shooting happened, said employees had been advised to use the buddy system as a precaution while the suspect remains at large.

She said she appreciated that authorities contacted her not long after the shooting to make sure her employees were OK, but they were off for the holiday.

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