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Ex-soldier convicted of capital murder in 2019 shooting that killed Auburn police officer, wounded 2 others

A gavel cracks down. (Airman 1st Class Aspen Reid/U.S. Air Force)

An Auburn man has been convicted in the 2019 killing of Auburn Police Officer William Buechner in a shooting that also injured two other officers.

The Lee County jury convicted 33-year-old Grady Wayne Wilkes of capital murder Buechner’s death, and of attempted murder in the wounding of officers Evan Elliot and Mark Sistrunk.

Wilkes was found not guilty of attempted of Ron Askelson, according to WTVM.

The verdict was handed down Tuesday afternoon after an eight-day trial. It began Monday, Aug. 7, and jurors began their deliberations on Monday, Aug. 14.

The jury deliberated for about six hours before returning its verdicts, according to WRBL.

The same jury will decide Wilke’s fate. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

The deadly shooting happened Sunday, May 19, 2019.

Auburn police responded about 10:40 p.m. to a domestic disturbance call at a mobile home park in the 3000 block of Wire Road.

The officers met with the female victim – Brooklyn Flaherty – who told them that Wilkes, who was her live-in boyfriend and the father of her child, physically assaulted her and threatened to kill her. The woman told police Wilkes had grabbed her by the wrist and choked her.

Flaherty fled the apartment and met officers at a different location within the trailer park.

After meeting with victim, multiple officers – including Buechner, Sistrunk and Elliott – went back to the home to make contact with Wilkes. The officers knocked, and Wilkes opened the door, wearing body armor and brandishing a rifle.

He immediately opened fire.

Buechner was transported to East Alabama Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. Sistrunk and Elliott were transported to another hospital for treatment of their wounds.

The fourth officer – Askelson – was fired upon but was not struck.

At the time of the shooting, Wilkes was an active member of the Alabama Army National Guard as a corporal and infantry fire team leader who joined the guard in 2010.

Wilkes was arrested at 7:12 a.m., Monday, a little more than nine hours after the initial call was made.

Wilkes testified during the trial, saying he fired at the officers because he thought one of them had a gun aimed at him.

According to the Opelika-Auburn News, Wilkes said his reflexes and muscle memory pushed him to load is rifle and shooting.

On the night of the shooting, he testified, he was drinking and in a bad mental state when he threw his girlfriend on the bed and choked her.

When she left, he began pacing the trailer, talking to himself, putting on his military gear and loading his rifle out of muscle memory.

“The military, it has discipline and it’s so rigid. When you get into that mindset, it takes away all of the chaos of life, the everyday ups and downs of a job or relationship. It’s very straightforward,” Wilkes said, according to the OA News. “Being in that mindset and having that plate carrier on, it makes me feel safe. It makes me feel empowered.”

When Wilkes heard the knock on the door that night, he said he thought it was Flaherty coming back.

He opened the door and said he made eye contact with the officer who knocked, Evan Elliot. Wilkes didn’t know the names of the officers at the time.

Wilkes then told the jury that he noticed the officer near the bottom of the trailer, Sistrunk, raise his gun. Wilkes said he heard a pop and he reacted reflexively, opening fire on the officers.


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