Fugitive in Butler County deputy shooting is adept in the outdoors, sheriff says

The fugitive suspected of shooting a Butler County deputy has a history of eluding law enforcement under difficult circumstances, Sheriff Kelly Herzet says.

Within the past week, 41-year-old Jan Tracy Kilbourne appears to have gone to lengths to escape extensive searches in three counties – Reno on Saturday, Butler on Monday and now possibly Cowley, authorities say.

About 5 p.m. Thursday, Udall Police Chief Erik King said a search team involving 15 to 20 officers from multiple local and state agencies and three to four dogs was still searching on the ground southwest of a Cowley County home that Kilbourne possibly burglarized Wednesday. The burglary prompted an extensive day-long search on the ground and in the air that was tapered back by Wednesday night. The burglarized home is about nine miles east of Udall; King described the latest search area as being between new U.S. 77 and old U.S. 77 and five to six miles southwest of the house.

“The trackers are, I’m sure, tired, but they’re still going,” King said.

The trackers were looking for footprints or other disturbances in the ground and broken branches, he said. It’s hot, painstaking work. “The guys that are trained to do that are very meticulous,” King said. “The trackers believe they have found some signs related to the person they’re looking for.”

Then about 5:50 p.m. Thursday, the search was called off for the day, King said later. He wasn’t sure what was planned for Friday.

Since Kilbourne has been on the run after Monday’s shooting, Herzet said, he has been told this about him: That in December 2011, he hid in a snowbank after he stole a deputy’s patrol car in Seward County. That Kilbourne escaped this past Saturday, two days before the shooting, during a chase in Reno County by swimming across a river and hiding out along a riverbank for a couple of days. So Kilbourne seems to be able to survive well, the sheriff said.

Based on that information and his escape into Butler County pastures and tree lines Monday, Herzet said: “Kilbourne is an outdoorsman. He’s doing a good job of getting away. Don’t get me wrong, we had a good perimeter set up yesterday (Wednesday).”

Herzet was referring to an extensive ground and air search that occurred Wednesday in Cowley County following a reported burglary at a home in a remote spot east of Udall.

If that was Kilbourne – and Herzet said he thinks it’s a good chance it was, based on what the intruder did and didn’t do – then Kilbourne was able to get away yet another time.

“If that was him yesterday, he was able to run pretty good,” Herzet said.

$5,000 reward offered

The Butler County Sheriff’s Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction in the deputy’s shooting, Herzet said.

Anyone with information about Kilbourne is asked to call investigators at 316-322-4257 or 1-800-KSCRIME.

Around 5:15 a.m. Monday, a Butler County deputy had stopped a suspicious car along U.S. 54 near Santa Fe Lake Road. A passenger in the front seat shot the deputy in the shoulder area. The deputy, whose protective vest stopped the bullet, fired back and wounded the suspect by the bullet or flying glass. The gunman left a blood trail initially. A 37-year-old man driving the car and his 24-year-old girlfriend, both of Hutchinson, have been interviewed and released, Herzet said.

Detectives have been sent to Hutchinson and Liberal because Kilbourne has ties there, Herzet has said.

On Thursday, Herzet said investigators found a cellphone registered to Kilbourne between the car seats and don’t know whether he has a phone now.

Around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, a woman was going in the front of her home east of Udall when a man went out a back door.

“I’m 70 percent sure that it was him,” Herzet said.

The intruder had apparently washed his hands in a sink in the basement and maybe gotten a drink of water. He apparently took time to lie down on the couch for a nap. They were not the actions of a typical burglar, Herzet noted. The sheriff also noted that there was no getaway car and apparently were no missing items and no pillow cases lying around to use for carrying off loot. It wasn’t the usual smash-and-grab.

Although Kilbourne had left a blood trail Monday, authorities found no blood in the home burglarized Wednesday, Herzet said.

It’s also hard to believe that the typical burglar could have escaped the ground and air search and the dog teams and trackers that descended on the scene, he said.

Dealing with nature

Herzet said the Cowley County undersheriff told him Thursday morning that a smaller search was going on farther south of the burglarized residence, with a smaller team trying to track the man who fled from the house. “I don’t think they’re having much luck,” Herzet said Thursday afternoon.

Authorities south of Cowley County, in Oklahoma, are being notified, Herzet said.

Nature is working against detection because the rain-fed foliage is thick, and the wild grass is high, he said.

Nature is also working against Kilbourne, the sheriff said.

It’s hot, humid and draining, and Kilbourne has apparently been on the run going on four days.

Herzet wondered if Kilbourne could be breaking into more homes and needing to steal food.

“I would think in time this gentleman, Jan, is going to be getting desperate,” the sheriff said.

“We just know he’s armed and dangerous, and we need to get him into custody.”

Past incidents

In the Reno County incident, which occurred Saturday, two days before the Butler County deputy’s shooting, authorities think that Kilbourne was a passenger who escaped an extensive search. Reno County sheriff’s Capt. Wayne Baughman gave this account: A suspicious vehicle had been down by the Arkansas River, between Hutchinson and Yoder, in the southeastern part of the county. A five-mile chase ensued, and deputies found the car abandoned in a soybean field. Officers set up a perimeter, and multiple agencies and tracking dogs searched for about four hours. Police found a woman who was suspected of driving the vehicle, which was registered to Kilbourne, and arrested her. She is charged with fleeing and eluding.

Authorities strongly suspect that the passenger who escaped was Kilbourne. “We’re 99 percent sure it was him,” Baughman said

Kilbourne has frequented the area around the Arkansas River in Reno County as well as South Hutchinson and Hutchinson, he said.

“My officers are on high alert,” Baughman said. “They will remain that way until he is caught.”

In the Seward County incident, on Christmas Eve of 2011, a deputy was chasing a stolen vehicle allegedly driven by Kilbourne, who grew up in the Liberal area, Seward County Undersheriff Gene Ward said Thursday. Ward gave this account of the chase: After the stolen vehicle got stuck in snow, a female passenger jumped out with a knife. While the deputy was focused on her, the driver managed to sneak into the patrol vehicle and take off.

Deputies found the patrol car, which had become stuck, and followed footprints in the snow. The fleeing man had walked quite a distance, and officers found him hiding under snow. He had positioned bushes over his body in an attempt to hide.

Kilbourne was charged with 19 separate crimes that Christmas Eve, including fleeing and eluding, criminal threat and criminal possession of a firearm. He received probation and was under supervision in the community when he stopped reporting to his probation officer on July 24.

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