by Ivan Foley
Prosecutors set out to make sure the man will spend the rest of his life in jail. If a 128-year sentence is any indication, they succeeded.
A man who escaped from prison and then shot at multiple law enforcement officers during a high-speed chase that began in Platte City has been sentenced to 128 years in prison.
Platte County Judge Ann Hansbrough handed down the sentence to Scott A. Gilbert, 52, on Friday after Gilbert had been found guilty of 10 felonies in a November 2015 jury trial. At a standing-room only sentencing hearing, dozens of law enforcement agents attended as a show of solidarity and support for their fellow officers.
The day of the crime, which was Friday, May 10, 2013 included several shots being fired at officers in pursuit, an attempted kidnapping of the Edgerton mayor as he stood on the street in his town watching the pursuit, and about a six-hour standoff at a residence along the Platte-Clinton County line. It wrapped up with the escapees surrendering without further incident.
The suspects were both accused of committing a dozen felonies throughout the day.
Prior to committing his 10 felonies in Platte County, Gilbert had been convicted of 52 felony offenses in Kansas.
Prosecutors argued that Gilbert should be sentenced to 62 years on each of four armed criminal action charges—one year for each of his felony convictions.
Zahnd said, “This defendant has the longest rap sheet of any person I have prosecuted during by 13 years in office. Our goal was to make sure the felonies he committed in Platte County were his last—by making sure he spent the rest of his life in prison.”
The day of the crime--which was chronicled as it was happening at Twitter.com/ivanfoley – began with reports of three inmates escaping early Friday from the minimum security unit at the Lansing facility.
At about 10 a.m., a report was dispatched that a stolen black GMC pickup had been pinpointed via GPS by Leavenworth Police Department to be near the intersection of Hwy. 92 and Running Horse Rd. in Platte City.
The stolen truck was spotted by Platte City Police Department Sgt. James Tharp. Tharp saw the truck leaving the parking lot at McDonald’s. He activated his lights and siren. The driver refused to stop and headed east on Hwy. 92, then onto northbound Interstate 29. Tharp was joined in pursuit by Platte City Police Officer Michael Burgoyne and Deputies Michael Macy, Colin Smith and Curtis Mears of the Platte County Sheriff’s Department.
During the pursuit, the passenger in the fleeing pickup used a shotgun to fire at the law enforcement officers. Shots struck the vehicle driven by Tharp, as well as the county cars driven by Macey, Mears, and Smith.
“I watched the video. I was pretty impressed with the whole scenario,” Lt. Al DeValkenaere of the Platte City Police Department told The Landmark a couple of days after the incident. “Our officers and every officer involved acted with professionalism and a level of restraint that was amazing.”
DeValkenaere said Tharp reported hearing the buckshot hit the car.
“But I don’t think we had any damage to the car,” he said. “I think they shot at him at least twice.”
The pursuit continued on Rt. E, then northbound on Rt. B, circled around the city of Edgerton, then continued eastbound on Hwy. Z. Vehicle speeds during the pursuit at times exceeded 90 miles per hour, authorities said, and the passenger was seen reloading the weapon within the vehicle.
At one point, officers radioed they felt the suspects were luring officers into a trap by shooting at the officers as their vehicles came over a hill. The suspect’s truck had slowed on the blind side of a hill, allowing the passenger to take closer and more accurate shots at officers.
Meanwhile, James Snook, mayor of Edgerton, and the town’s city clerk had stepped out of City Hall as the pursuit had circled through town more than once.
“Sure, you want to see the excitement when it goes through town three different times,” Snook told The Landmark shortly after the incident had occurred.
Snook said on that third trip through town, the suspect’s truck came to a screeching halt. The passenger opened the pickup door and pointed the shotgun at Snook, the mayor said.
“He said ‘Come here’ or ‘Get over here,’” Snook recalled. “He was exiting the vehicle to try to get us in it. I went running down to take cover behind my pickup. The city clerk went back inside City Hall,” Snook said.
At about 10:30 a.m., the stolen truck came to a stop at a residence in the 8700 block of SW Hwy Z just across the Platte County line in Clinton County. The two suspects fled inside the house, breaking through a glass door to gain entry.
Fortunately, there was no one home at the time. Officers from the Platte County Sheriff’s Department, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department and Missouri State Highway Patrol surrounded the home. SWAT teams positioned themselves, including snipers from the sheriff’s department and the highway patrol.
Eventually verbal contact was made via bullhorn with the suspects, with a negotiator from the highway patrol speaking with the suspects at various times. Shortly before 5 p.m. the suspects agreed to walk out of the home through the back door and were arrested peacefully, officers said.
Platte County Sheriff Mark Owen was pleased with the tactical response.
“Because of the heroic actions of many fine law enforcement officers, these two prison escapees were taken into custody without anyone being seriously injured or killed. These officers refused to yield in the face of danger, even after the defendants fired multiple gunshots at them,” Owen said to The Landmark a few days after the incident.
In the courtroom on Friday, Hansbrough imposed 25 year sentences on each count of assault of a law enforcement officer and seven years on each armed criminal action count.
The court ordered all of those sentences to run consecutively, for a total of 128 years.
The court also sentenced Gilbert to six years in prison for tampering with a motor vehicle and seven years in prison for resisting arrest. She ordered those sentences to running concurrently with his other sentences.
The other inmate remains in custody and his case is scheduled for a jury trial in June 2016.
Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd said, “Thank goodness no police officers were injured in apprehending this dangerous escaped inmate. Anyone who would shoot at law enforcement officers and put countless people in harm's way deserves a long prison sentence, and that's exactly what this defendant will serve.”
Evidence at trial showed that Gilbert was traveling in a stolen black 1997 GMC pickup truck that left the McDonald's in Platte City at about 10 a.m. on May 10, 2013. Earlier that morning, Gilbert had escaped from the Lansing, KS Correctional Facility, allegedly with another inmate who was driving the truck.
During the pursuit, Gilbert fired a shotgun multiple times and struck the vehicles of four different law enforcement officers.
The case was investigated by the Platte County Sheriff's Department, with the assistance of the Platte City Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Clinton County Sheriff's Department, the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department, the Cameron Police Department, and the Trimble Police Department.
The case was tried by First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Gibson and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Blake Sherer.