Gunman In Body Armor, Helmet, Arrested After Murdering Officer
Auburn, AL – Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty against the gunman accused of murdering one Auburn police officer and wounding two others on Sunday night.
“When you shoot a police officer, we’re going to pursue the death penalty,” Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes said, according to The Birmingham News. “Absolutely.”
Auburn Police Officer William Buechner was fatally shot by 29-year-old Grady Wayne Wilkes while responding to a report of a domestic disturbance at a trailer park at approximately 10:40 p.m., police said.
"Once on scene, officers were met with gunfire from a white male suspect, later identified as Grady Wayne Wilkes, age 29,” the Auburn Police Department (APD) said in a press release.
Wilkes, who was allegedly wearing body armor and a helmet during the fatal encounter, is also accused of shooting Auburn Police Officer Webb Sistrunk and Officer Evan Elliott.
Officer Sistrunk has been with the Auburn Police Department (APD) since 2011, WMC reported. He remains hospitalized in serious condition, but is expected to recover.
Officer Elliot joined the force in 2018, and was treated and released to recover at home.
Additional officers responded to the call, but were uninjured.
Auburn Police Chief Paul Register would not say if the officers returned fire when they came under attack, The Birmingham News reported.
"It was a simple domestic disturbance," Chief Register said, according to USA Today. "You always hear that they are one of the most dangerous kinds of calls officers go to, and it played out to that effect tonight."
Details of the original domestic disturbance call have not been released, but the woman involved in the initial report was not injured, according to WFLD.
Multiple local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies joined the search for Wilkes, who was not known to the police department prior to the shooting, OAN reported.
Wilkes was arrested in the 900-block of Lee Road 9 – approximately one mile away from the scene of the shooting – just before 7:15 a.m. on Monday.
He did not resist arrest, and cooperated with officers once he was taken into custody, Chief Register said.
Police confirmed that Wilkes served in the military, but did not say which branch he served in.
Wilkes has been charged with three counts of attempted murder, capital murder, and second-degree domestic abuse.
"It's a great responsibility to tell you what a sad day this is for our community," Auburn Mayor Rob Anders said. "On behalf of our elected officials and our entire community, we're very sorry that we have lost an officer in the line of duty."
"Three courageous young men…went to protect us," Anders continued, according to WLS. "We're very sorry that we have lost an officer in the line of duty. To his family, we are here with you. We will not leave you and we will stand beside you to help you get through this."
Officer Buechner was a 13-year veteran of the Auburn Police Department.
“This is probably the worst day of my time here and words cannot express the loss for this family, and our family, and this community," Chief Register told reporters shortly after 5 a.m. on Monday.
The chief said that Officer Buechner was “well-liked” and “respected” by his peers, WFLD reported.
“If you do a job for 13 years, I think that in itself says a lot about the dedication of that officers,” he said. “I think it’s just typical of what we have here.”