A 29-year-old man was ordered Tuesday to spend the rest of his life in prison for the killing last May of Kansas City, Kan., Police Detective Brad Lancaster.
Curtis Ayers pleaded guilty in January to capital murder in the fatal shooting of the 39-year-old father of two girls May 9 outside the Kansas Speedway in western Wyandotte County.
The charge carried a potential death sentence, but prosecutors agreed to not seek the death penalty in exchange for Ayers’ guilty plea.
The Lancaster family agreed with that decision, according to a letter from the detective’s mother that was read in the courtroom Tuesday by Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Tatum.
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Life in prison with no chance of parole was the only option for Wyandotte County District Judge Bill Klapper to impose for capital murder.
But the judge also sentenced Ayers on Tuesday for nine other felony crimes he committed after Lancaster was shot, including robbery, kidnapping, shooting at another police officer and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Those sentences, totaling 41 years in prison, were ordered to run consecutively to the life sentence.
Ayers chose not to comment before he was sentenced.
The courtroom was packed with law enforcement officers from across the metro area, including officers from the Platte County Sheriff’s Office where Lancaster worked before joining the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department.
Kansas City, Kan., Deputy Police Chief Mike York was the only speaker to address the judge before sentencing.
He called Lancaster a dedicated and passionate man who was also one of the smartest people he had ever met.
On the day he was killed, Lancaster answered a radio call to assist other officers, typically not the kind of call a detective would answer, York said.
“He took it upon himself to back them up,” York said.
He said it was an example of how Lancaster always strove to go above and beyond the call of duty.
“Brad dedicated his life to serving others,” said York, speaking on behalf of the department. “He is our hero.”
In the letter Tatum read, Carolynn Lancaster said that although a “cruel person” took the life of her son, “nobody can take away our precious memories.”
Before he announced the sentences, Judge Klapper said that if it were in his power, he would make Ayers spend “every waking moment” of his life feeling the same sadness, loneliness and pain felt by all the people his crimes affected.
The judge said many people in the courtroom would want to see Ayers receive a death sentence.
“But that is not in my power,” Klapper said. “And that would not bring back Detective Lancaster.”
Shortly after the sentencing, Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Terry Zeigler, who was unable to attend the hearing, tweeted about the loss.
“We will continue to heal as a family, department, and community,” he wrote. “Thanks to everyone who has worked on this case.”
Lancaster was killed while he and other officers were responding to a call from security at the Hollywood Casino.
After shooting the detective, Ayers got into Lancaster’s police vehicle and began to flee before another officer rammed the vehicle. Ayers and that officer exchanged gunfire. Neither was hit before Ayers drove off in Lancaster’s car.
A few minutes later, he was involved in a traffic crash near 118th Street and State Avenue with a vehicle occupied by a woman and her two small children.
Ayers pulled the woman from her car, causing her to fall and break her arm. He then drove away in her car with the children still inside.
He then drove to Basehor in Leavenworth County, where he left that car with the children unharmed and allegedly stole another man’s car at gunpoint.
Later that day, Ayers was shot by a Kansas City police officer after Ayers allegedly shot another woman while trying to steal her car.
Charges are pending against him in Jackson and Leavenworth counties.
At a news conference after the sentencing, Wyandotte County District Attorney Mark Dupree expressed his continued support and prayers for the Lancaster family.
Dupree challenged the entire community to step up and do their part to fight “senseless gun violence” in the community.
If someone had come forward and told police that a “knucklehead with guns and drugs” was out running around, Lancaster could still be alive, he said.
Tyrone Garner, acting police chief in Zeigler’s absence Tuesday, also spoke about how law enforcement needs the support and help of people in the community to stop crime and violence.
Garner also expressed the department’s sympathy to Lancaster’s family and thanks for all the support they and the department have received.
“Brad will never be forgotten,” Garner said. “He will live on in our hearts and thoughts and minds.”