in Lehigh shooting
It’s been 191 days since Lehigh resident Robb Stewart was shot to death June 20 by an officer who responded to a possible suicide call, and a decision of whether the shooting was justified is drawing near.
Originally expected to turn over its investigative files to county attorney Courtney Boehm by September, Kansas Bureau of Investigation didn’t deliver them until early November. A KBI spokesman indicated a backlog at an independent lab that conducted Stewart’s autopsy caused the delay.
Boehm indicated when she received the files that a decision would likely be forthcoming in January. Friday, Boehm reaffirmed the timeline.
“The case is still under review, and I hope to issue my opinion shortly after the first of the year,” Boehm said. “It should be within the first couple of weeks.”
Boehm could determine the shooting was justified, or possibly fire charges against the former Marion police officer believed to have fired the fatal shot, Lee Vogel. Vogel left the department in July to take a similar position in Plainville.
Sheriff’s deputies and officers from Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody responded to the Stewart residence in the 400 block of Maria St. after receiving a call at 6:13 p.m. that he was drunk, suicidal, and possessed a weapon.
Stewart reportedly was in a garage or shed when officers arrived. As he emerged, an officer radioed that Stewart was pointing a gun at him.
Fifty seconds elapsed before an officer shouted into his radio, “Shots fired! Shots fired! Get the ambulance!”
Subsequent ambulance transmissions confirmed that Stewart had been killed and also indicated a Marion officer had been taken to a hospital.
Sheriff Robert Craft issued a statement the next day indicating the officer would be on administrative leave pending the completion of the investigation. Radio transmissions and observations indicated that officer was Vogel, who returned to active duty in July.
Authorities have never confirmed Vogel as the shooter and have provided no details of the incident beyond initial written statements by the sheriff and KBI.
Boehm also did not provide any information about what she had learned from reviewing body camera footage from multiple officers, interviews conducted at the scene, an autopsy report, toxicology tests, and forensic analysis conducted by KBI, which took over the investigation the night of the shooting.
In an unsolicited November email to the Marion County Record, Mark Stewart, Robb’s brother, commented on the deaths of his brother and mother, 92-year-old Lois Stewart, who died Aug. 10 at Newton Presbyterian Manor, less than two months after the shooting.
“Since that tragic death of my brother, our mother passed away, partly due to acute grief,” Stewart wrote. “I have a real problem with the way this was handled.”
Stewart, who lives in Pineville, Missouri, contended the officer who fired the shots “had a safe vantage point from the corner of the house,” although he provided no basis for the claim.
Stewart alleged that multiple shots were fired.
“Guess the last two hit my brother; must’ve cause it blew his lower jaw off,” he wrote. “So it was closed casket, which really pained our mother.”
Stewart wrote that he did not know why his brother was suicidal.
“I can’t understand what put him in that frame of mind,” he wrote. “He always was a fairly laid-back guy. He talked for years of moving to Marion County and having a nice shop. Damn Stewart luck I guess?”
Mark Stewart did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him for additional information.