Crime

Defendant in 1988 deaths of KC firefighters seeks release from prison

The wreckage of fire trucks was what little remained at the south Kansas City blast site in November 1988 in which six Kansas City firefighters were killed. The massive explosions were heard and felt across the metropolitan area.
The wreckage of fire trucks was what little remained at the south Kansas City blast site in November 1988 in which six Kansas City firefighters were killed. The massive explosions were heard and felt across the metropolitan area. File photo

A man serving a life sentence for the 1988 deaths of six Kansas City firefighters should immediately be released from prison, his attorney says in newly filed court documents.

Bryan E. Sheppard was 17 in 1988 when an arsonist set fire to a trailer containing explosives. The fire triggered an explosion that killed the firefighters at a south-central Kansas City construction site.

Sheppard was one of five defendants convicted in the case and sentenced to life in prison.

Sheppard, now 45, has maintained his innocence throughout the case.

He previously had been granted a new sentencing hearing after U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2012 and 2016 found that it was unconstitutional to impose mandatory prison sentences of life without parole on juveniles.

This week, his attorney filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Kansas City arguing that based on other U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Sheppard’s sentence of life without parole is unconstitutional.

Based on the current law, he could only be legally sentenced to a maximum term of 10 years, attorney Cynthia Short said in her motion.

Since he has already served more than 20 years, Short said Sheppard should be released from custody “at the earliest possibility.”

Government attorneys have not yet filed a response to Short’s new motion.

Tony Rizzo: 816-234-4435, @trizzkc

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