Cop vowed to ‘smoke’ man he shot
But feared for his life and won’t be charged
Minutes after a Marion police officer shouted that he was going to “smoke him” if a holed-up Lehigh man re-emerged from a workshop, the officer fired five times from an assault rifle, killing 50-year-old Robb Stewart and ending a less-than-half-hour standoff June 20.
After months of investigation by Kansas Bureau of Investigation, county attorney Courtney Boehm announced Friday that no charges would be filed against the officer, Lee Vogel, who soon afterward left the force for a police position in Plainville.
Boehm said the officer was immune from arrest or prosecution because he feared for his life and the lives of others.
Authorities have never identified Vogel as the officer, but several sources and radio transmissions monitored by the newspaper at the time confirmed Vogel was the Marion officer involved in the standoff.
Boehm verified Tuesday that the Marion officer was the one who calmly radioed at 6:44 p.m. July 20: “Just be advised he has a firearm in his left hand, pointed directly toward me.”
More than 50 seconds of relatively calm transmissions from other officers on the scene followed before an unidentified officer shouted into his radio: “Shots fired! Shots fired! Get the ambulance!”
During that time, Boehm said, officers had repeated previous commands that Stewart surrender a silver revolver he was holding.
She said the Marion officer reported hearing Stewart say, “I’ve got it right here for you,” while holding the gun up with his right (not left) hand.
The officer interpreted this as a threat, Boehm said, and fired five shots with a department-issued AR-15 .223 caliber rifle.
One shot struck Stewart’s lower right face and neck, killing him. A relative later told the newspaper that the shot blew Stewart’s jaw off.
Stewart, whom autopsy tests confirmed was intoxicated at the time, reportedly had ignored previous commands to put the gun down and his hands up when he first emerged for a moment from the workshop behind his residence about 15 minutes before the shooting.
That’s when the Marion officer reportedly shouted to a nearby Hillsboro officer that Stewart had pointed a gun at him and that he was going to “smoke him” if he did it again.
The Hillsboro officer reportedly replied that he thought Stewart hadn’t seen the Marion officer.
Stewart re-emerged 15 minutes later and was killed. A Kansas Highway Patrol negotiator who had been summoned to the scene had not yet arrived when the shooting occurred.
Boehm said the Marion officer, who suffered chest pains and was taken to St. Luke Hospital in Marion after the shooting, had been “very scared” for himself, other officers, and civilians in the area.
After the shooting, Vogel was placed on administrative leave. Sheriff Rob Craft initially said the leave would continue pending investigation, but Vogel was back on duty less than a month later after his employer, the City of Marion, paid for a series of counseling appointments.
Less than two weeks after Vogel returned to duty, he was hired as a police officer by Plainville, a city of 1,900 about 20 miles north of Hays.
KBI took over the investigation immediately after the standoff ended. It delivered its final report to Boehm early in November.
The standoff began after a relative reported that Stewart, a 30-year AGCO worker and classic car enthusiast, had been intoxicated, armed, and suicidal.
He had moved to Lehigh two years earlier so he could have his own shop to work on classic cars.