Officer cleared in shooting death of Lehigh man

An unidentified Marion police officer was cleared of any criminal charges after using deadly force on a 50-year-old Lehigh man almost six months after the June 20 incident.

Robb R. Stewart was shot five times with a Marion Police Department issue DPMS Panther Arms AR-15 .223 caliber rifle, stated Courtney Boehm, Marion County attorney in a Jan. 5 press release.

After reviewing the Kan­sas Bureau of Investigation’s findings, Boehm stated no evidence was uncovered that the officer used unreasonable force in this situation.

“The officer acted in an objectively reasonable manner in defending himself and the other law enforcement officers present on scene,” she stated.

Under Kansas law and the facts of the case, Boehm further explained that no criminal charges would be filed against the officer.

What happened?

Boehm stated that police were dispatched at 6:08 p.m. June 20 by a woman who said her father-in-law threatened to commit suicide after pointing a gun at himself.

“Further, he had gone out to the workshop located behind the house where more firearms may be at,” Boehm stated.

“The reporting party indicated that Mr. Stewart was intoxicated and had gotten into a fight with his son.”

Officers were then dispatched to the 400 block of East Maria in Lehigh.

The first officer on the scene spoke to family who said Stewart had a Smith and Wesson revolver, silver in color.

Two more officers arrived while the initial police officer was speaking to members of Stewart’s family, she stated.

The three officers, she said, began walking along the west side of the residence, with one officer watching Stewart move from the house to the workshop with the Smith and Wesson in his hand.

Officers then moved across the south side to the east side of the house.

Boehm stated that a negotiator with the KBI was headed to the scene as officers unsuccessfully attempted to talk with Stewart.

By this time four law enforcement officers were at the scene—two from the Marion County Sheriff’s office, one from the Hillsboro Police Department and one from the Marion Police Department, she explained.

Setting up perimeter

In an attempt to set up a perimeter, police and sheriff’s deputies positioned themselves in four locations.

The Marion police officer, Boehm stated, was posted at the northwest corner of the residence and across from the door to the workshop.

“The Hillsboro police officer was located on the east side of the workshop. He took a position behind vehicles parked there,” she noted.

One of the deputies took a position across the street from the house and behind a tree where he could observe the south and west sides of the house, Boehm explained.

The other deputy parked his vehicle in the northwest corner of the property.

Law enforcement officers couldn’t see into the windows of the workshop because of glare from the sun.

Boehm stated that at 6:25 p.m. the door to the workshop opened and the two officers posted near the doorway started shouting at Stewart to “freeze, put your hands up and put the gun down.”

Stewart was holding the revolver in his right hand, and the Marion police officer saw the gun pointed at him.

Neither officer heard Stewart said anything, Boehm stated, but Stewart pulled the door shut and went back into the workshop.

Both officers were wearing ballistic vests, black in color with the word “Police” in white on the front, she stated.

The Marion officer shouted to the Hillsboro officer that Stewart had pointed the gun right at him, and if he came out of the workshop again he was going to “smoke him,” she stated.

After the shooting, the Marion officer told KBI investigators that he was very scared for himself, the other officers on scene, and civilians who he could hear outside in the area.

Shots fired

About 15 minutes later, at 6:40 p.m., Boehm recounted from the investigation that the door to the workshop opened again and Stewart was standing with the revolver in his right hand.

The Marion officer heard Stewart say, “I’ve got it right here for you,” while holding the gun up, she said.

“The officer took the statement and action as a threat to himself and other law enforcement on scene,” she stated.

It was then the officer fired five shots from his rifle with other officers announcing that shots were fired.

About five minutes after Stewart was shot, EMS arrived and Stewart was pronounced dead.

The Marion police officer began experiencing tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing, Boehm stated.

The officer was taken to St. Luke Hospital by ambulance.

Boehm said her findings and conclusions are related only to the criminal investigation.

“The only question addressed by this report,” she stated, “is whether sufficient evidence exists to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the criminal laws of the state of Kansas were violated.”

The county attorney’s office has no administrative or civil authority regarding use of force investigations.

This report doesn’t address any administrative review that could be conducted by the Marion Police, provide any assessment of policy con­sidera­tions or address questions of possible civil actions where a lesser burden of proof would apply, she said.

The name of the police officer involved in the shooting death of Stewart was not released to the media.