Probe could take weeks
No decision on charges until KBI inquiry ends
It could be weeks if not months before a prosecutor decides whether to seek charges against a police officer, thought to be from Marion, who shot and killed a reportedly intoxicated and suicidal Lehigh man during an armed standoff last week.
County attorney Courtney Boehm, who ultimately is responsible for making the decision, expects to view results of a KBI investigation in six to eight weeks.
She said she would thoroughly review the KBI report before deciding whether charges should be filed.
In the meantime, the officer involved presumably will remain on paid administrative leave.
KBI communications director Melissa Underwood said Monday that toxicology tests would be performed on samples from the officer as well as the Lehigh man who died, 50-year-old Robb Stewart, a classic car enthusiast and longtime painter for AGCO in Hesston.
Underwood said KBI typically left it up to local officials to decide whether to identify officers involved in shootings. Marion County officials have not released his name nor disclosed which police agency he works for.
“In larger cities, which have had repeated issues with that sort of thing, departments decide to provide that information to add another level of transparency to the process,” Underwood said. “Some of them come out right away. We just have never done that.”
Detectives and forensic investigators arrived in Lehigh the night of the shooting and stayed to collect evidence and conduct interviews until about 7 p.m. the next day, Sheriff Rob Craft said.
An independent lab has performed an autopsy on Stewart’s remains, Underwood said, and a preliminary report should already have been received by KBI. It will not be released, however, until the after the investigation is concluded — if then.
Stewart was shot and killed at 6:46 p.m. June 20, just 33 minutes after sheriff’s deputies and police from throughout the county were dispatched to his house.
County and state officials have been tight-lipped about the incident, not disclosing Stewart’s name or even that anyone had been shot until after print editions of this newspaper hit the street with that information last week.
In a statement released at that time, Craft said that before negotiations with Stewart could begin, Stewart attempted to exit an outbuilding, and officers instructed him to put down a handgun he was carrying.
“When he pointed the handgun toward one of the officers, that officer fired at Mr. Stewart,” Craft’s statement said.
Audio recordings of radio transmissions indicate a gap of at least 50 seconds between the initial report that Stewart was pointing a gun at an officer and the report of shots being fired.
One officer radioed: “10-4, Marion. Just be advised he has a firearm in his left hand, pointed directly toward me.”
Several other conversations about where officers were positioned occurred before a different officer breathlessly shouted into his radio: “Shots fired! Shots fired! Get the ambulance!”
Unedited police transmissions
Although not forthcoming about other details, Craft did say that Stewart never fired the gun he was holding. In an interview with a reporter, the sheriff declined to say how many shots had been fired or where Stewart had been struck.
Soon after Craft’s initial statement to media, KBI issued an email news release adding that, although no officers were injured, an unidentified officer was taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Recorded conversations indicate this might have been a Marion officer, as other officers asked whether a particular Marion officer needed attention before the ambulance left to answer another call.
Monitored transmissions indicated that whoever was transported had been experiencing chest pains.
Services for Stewart were Monday in Newton, with burial at Hesston.
According to his obituary, Stewart and his wife, Julie, would have been married 30 years Oct. 9. He had two married sons, Daniel and Dylan, and three grandchildren. Daniel also resided in Lehigh.
Stewart worked for AGCO in Hesston for almost 30 years, moving to Lehigh with Julie about two years ago to open a shop where he could work on classic cars with his sons.
He was described as a family man who was known to stop what he was doing to help out any family member or friend in need.
“As his boys were growing up,” an obituary prepared by his family states, “camping and fishing trips to Marion were special bonding time with his family and friends.
“He loved his three grandkids and looked forward to their visits and play time with their ‘papa.’
“Robb greatly loved being a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and co-worker, and he will be missed by all who knew him.”