A 20-year-old man with no known criminal record is facing a possible death sentence in the killing of Kansas City, Kan., Police Capt. Robert D. Melton.
Jamaal R. Lewis was charged Thursday with capital murder in the Tuesday shooting of the 46-year-old veteran officer.
“Mr. Lewis fired shots directly at Captain Melton, resulting in Captain Melton’s death,” Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome Gorman alleged at a news conference Thursday.
A decision has not been made on whether to seek the death penalty, Gorman said. He met with the Melton family earlier Thursday and said he wanted to give them more time to grieve before discussing the penalty.
Lewis also is charged with aggravated assault and criminal discharge of a firearm. His bond is set at $10 million, according to Wyandotte County jail records.
A second man, 18-year-old Daqon Sipple, was charged Thursday with aggravated assault, criminal discharge of a firearm and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Bond for Sipple was set at $100,000, records show.
The chain of events that led to the fatal shooting of Melton began early Tuesday afternoon at the Juniper Gardens apartments near Second Street and Edgerton Avenue.
There, Sipple, Lewis and a third person, who remains at large, were allegedly involved in a drive-by shooting in which no one was hit. Gorman said police think Lewis was driving the car and Sipple fired seven or eight shots at an unoccupied apartment.
Gorman said Tuesday that the shooting was apparently the result of a problem between two groups.
Shortly after an officer saw the car reportedly involved in that shooting near 15th Street and Rowland Avenue. Sipple was arrested at that time and had a 9 mm handgun, Gorman said. The charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer stems from Sipple’s actions during the arrest. Gorman did not elaborate Thursday.
Two other people fled on foot and the officer broadcast their descriptions to other officers.
Melton was in the area when he and another officer saw Lewis near 22nd Street and Georgia Avenue, Gorman said.
Melton attempted to block Lewis with a patrol car, but before Melton could get out, Lewis allgedly pulled out a gun and fired into the car, striking Melton several times, Gorman said.
Other officers began first aid and the captain was rushed to a hospital, but he died about an hour later.
After Melton was shot, Lewis ran into a wooded area, Gorman said. Lewis was arrested near 19th Street and Stewart Avenue about 20 minutes after the shooting.
Lewis was not armed when arrested, but police have recovered the .40-caliber handgun that they believe was used to kill Melton, Gorman said. The gun is being tested.
Gorman said police still want to talk to the third person who fled from the scene, but he said there is currently no evidence that person was involved in firing shots.
While area court records do not show any prior criminal cases for Lewis, some Kansas City, Kan., police officers said they were familiar with him in relation to several disturbances or instances of shots being fired.
Several photographs on his Facebook page appear to show Lewis holding a handgun.
While noting he wasn’t saying that Lewis was involved in other crimes, Gorman said: “There’s a lot of people who do bad things who have not been caught and convicted.”
Sipple had four prior convictions as a juvenile, according to Wyandotte County court records.
In a 2013 case, Sipple pleaded guilty to battery of a school employee.
He was placed on probation with the stipulation that he “avoid negative behaviors” and receive a mental evaluation for anger management, the records show.
A few months later he violated his probation, and it was extended.
It appears from the records that Sipple successfully completed probation and was released from juvenile court jurisdiction.
He had two previous prosecutions for theft in 2009 and one for disorderly conduct in 2010.
Sipple’s grandmother said she was shocked to hear that he was involved in the incident.
She said he had been working different jobs through temporary services and staying out of trouble.
“I was surprised he was mixed up in this,” Patricia Drew said.
Kansas City, Kan., school district records show that Lewis and Sipple had been enrolled in Washington High School at one time, but the records don’t show if either graduated.
Unlike other incidents around the country in recent weeks, Melton’s killing was not a planned ambush, Police Chief Terry Zeigler said Wednesday.
“This incident involved a suspect who committed a violent crime and then murdered an officer to avoid being caught,” Zeigler said.
Melton was the second Kansas City, Kan., officer to be fatally shot this year.
On May 9, Detective Brad Lancaster was killed outside Kansas Speedway.
Like Melton, he was trying to stop a person fleeing from police when that person pulled out a gun and fired into Lancaster’s police vehicle before he could get out.
Curtis Ayers, 29, of Tonganoxie, is charged with capital murder in Lancaster’s death. A preliminary hearing in his case is scheduled for Nov. 21.
Melton’s name is on the witness list in court documents filed in the Ayers case.
Killing a law enforcement officer is one of a handful of circumstances that qualify for a capital murder charge under Kansas law.
The crime carries two possible sentences: life in prison with no chance of parole, or death.
The funeral service for Melton will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, 1 Sporting Way in Kansas City, Kan. Visitation is from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Jack Reardon Civic Center at Fifth Street and Minnesota Avenue.
Visitation is 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at the Jack Reardon Civic Center, 520 Minnesota Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.
Melton’s funeral will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Children’s Mercy Park, 1 Sporting Way in Kansas City, Kan.
A ceremony immediately following the funeral will be held at Leavenworth National Cemetery, 150 Muncie Road.
Those interested in making donations to help the Melton family can contribute at any branch of the Greater KC Public Safety Credit Union.
Checks can be made payable to the Captain Robert Melton Memorial Fund.
Credit union locations are:
▪ 2800 E. 14th St., Kansas City, MO 64127.
▪ 8320 N. Brighton Ave., Kansas City, MO 64119.
▪ 19341 East U.S. 40, Suite A, Independence, MO 64055.
Donations can also be sent to the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department, Attention: Chief’s Office, 700 Minnesota Ave., Kansas City, KS 66101.