Former military man arrested for shooting and killing an Auburn police officer, death penalty sought

Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, is being held without bond in the shooting death of Officer William Buechner, a 13-year veteran of the Auburn Police Division


                            Former military man arrested for shooting and killing an Auburn police officer, death penalty sought

AUBURN, Ala. : A man who opened fire on police responding to a domestic disturbance report, killing one officer and wounding two others, was arrested Monday after an 'intense manhunt' and charged with capital murder, authorities said.

Grady Wayne Wilkes, 29, was being held without bond in the shooting death of Officer William Buechner, who had been with the Auburn Police Division for more than 13 years. Buechner is survived by his wife and two children.

This undated photo provided by the Auburn Police Department shows Officer William Buechner, who was killed while responding to a domestic disturbance report on Sunday, May 19, 2019. Grady Wayne Wilkes, who opened fire on police Sunday night, killing Buechner and wounding two other officers, was arrested Monday, May 20 and charged with capital murder, authorities said. (Auburn Police Department via AP)

Wilkes also was charged with attempted murder in the wounding of officers Webb Sistrunk and Evan Elliott, said Police Chief Paul Register. Both are expected to recover.

District Attorney Brandon Hughes said authorities would seek capital punishment: "If you shoot a police officer, we're going to seek the death penalty, absolutely."

The chief described Wilkes as a former member of the military who was working in the area and hadn't had previous contact with police. The Blue Alert sent out after the officers were shot described him as wearing camouflage body armor and a helmet.

This undated photo released by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency shows Grady Wayne Wilkes. Authorities said Monday, May 20, 2019, Wilkes opened fire on police responding to a call about a domestic disturbance Sunday night in an Alabama mobile home park, killing one officer and wounding two others. An intense manhunt led to his arrest hours later, not far from the Arrow Head Trailer Park, which is only a few miles from the campus of Auburn University, where students had been warned to be on alert. (Alabama Law Enforcement Agency via AP)

But with helicopters hovering overhead, he didn't get far. An intense, overnight manhunt led to Wilkes' arrest about nine hours after the shootings, less than a mile from the Arrow Head Trailer Park, where the officers were hit. Information from a citizen helped police and U.S. marshals take him down.

The chief called the arrest relatively uneventful and said no one was injured bringing Wilkes into custody. A booking photo released by police showed Wilkes with red marks and apparent bruises on his face. Auburn Police spokesman Lorenza Dorsey said the injuries occurred before police found him.

The person who called police wasn't hurt, the chief said, but Wilkes also was charged with domestic violence.

A woman from Coffee County, south of Auburn, had asked a judge in November for a court order protecting her from abuse by Wilkes, records show.  She wrote in a court document that Wilkes, who had an Enterprise address at the time, sexually assaulted her while she was incapacitated and she feared he would harm her after learning she was pressing charges. She is married to another man. The judge refused a protection order following a hearing in January, ruling that the woman didn't have a qualifying relationship with Wilkes, whom she said she did not know before the alleged assault. 

There is no record of sexual assault charges against Wilkes, who records show doesn't have a criminal record in Alabama.

A tow truck removes a police car from a mobile home park, Monday, May 20, 2019, in Auburn, Ala., where three police officers were shot late Sunday. Authorities say a man opened fire on police responding to a domestic call late Sunday, killing one officer and wounding two others. (AP Photo/Blake Paterson)

Court records weren't available immediately to show whether Wilkes had a lawyer. The Lee County coroner Bill Harris said the officer was killed died in the emergency room.

"This is probably the worst day of my time here," Register said."Words cannot express the loss for this family, our family and this community."

Meanwhile, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has also decried the violence. "This is so tragic and so useless. I'm just heartbroken," she said Monday during an appearance in Montgomery. 

City officials said Buechner was believed to be the first Auburn police officer killed in the line of duty.