Ayers avoids death penalty, pleads guilty to murdering Lancaster

A 29-year-old man avoided the death penalty, pleading guilty Tuesday, Jan. 3 to capital murder in a Wyandotte County (Kan.) courtroom filled with law enforcement officers.

Curtis Ayers received a life sentence without the possibility of parole for his role in the death of Kansas City (Kan.) Police Department detective Brad Lancaster, a native of Weston, Mo. and former member of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office, in exchange for his plea. Ayers shot and killed the 39-year-old family man and seasoned law enforcement officer before leading authorities on a lengthy and dangerous chase in early May of 2016.

Brad Lancaster

Brad Lancaster

According to Wyandotte County prosecuting attorney Jerome Gorman, the agreement had been discussed with members of Lancaster’s family, who supported the deal. Lancaster’s widow, Jamie, was in the courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to capital murder in Lancaster’s death, Ayers pleaded guilty to nine other felonies stemming from the events of May 9, 2016.

The court scheduled Ayers’ sentencing for March 14.

Thousands showed up to mourn Lancaster’s death on a sunny afternoon in early May at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. — the home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City. Many more lined up along the funeral procession route, which led to his burial site at Graceland Cemetery in downtown Weston, Mo.

A graduate of West Platte High School in 1994, Lancaster served in the U.S. Air Force with two tours overseas — the first as a military policeman in Kuwait during Desert Shield and another in Saudi Arabia. From August of 1998 to July 2007, Lancaster worked for the Platte County Sheriff’s Office. He also volunteered as a firefighter for the West Platte and South Platte fire protection districts.

As Valedictorian Graduate of the Kansas City (Kan.) Police Academy, Lancaster quickly rose to the rank of Detective in the KCK Police Department. He spent his last nine years working for the KCK Police Department.

According to Gorman, Lancaster and other officers were responding to the call of a suspicious person in the area of Hollywood Casino on May 9. They encountered Ayers, who ignored instructions from officer and attempted to flee the scene.

Lancaster attempted to block his path with his patrol car when Ayers drew a handgun from his waistband and fired shots into the vehicle from about 8 feet away. Lancaster suffered seven gunshot wounds and died later at a local hospital.

Ayers fled the scene in the detective’s car and later stole two more vehicles, including one with two children inside. Authorities eventually shot and apprehended Ayers in Kansas City, Mo. after he crashed one of the stolen vehicles near Bannister road.

Charges against Ayers in Jackson County (Mo.) and Leavenworth County (Kan.) remain pending.

Lancaster was rushed to KU Medical Center, where he went into surgery before succumbing to his injuries. He left behind his wife Jamie and two daughters.