A former Commerce City cop accused of staging his own shooting pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges Friday, attributing his scheme to mental health problems brought on by years of handling difficult cases.
Kevin J. Lord, 52, stood with his head down as he pleaded guilty to a felony count of tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor charge of false reporting in the wake of him shooting himself last Nov. 8 and reporting that he'd been attacked by a motorist after a traffic stop.
His ballistic vest stopped the bullet – and in the early days of the case was credited repeatedly with saving his life.
Lord’s report sparked a manhunt and led to numerous appeals to the public for information that could help solve the case.
After approving the plea deal, Adams County District Judge Robert Kiesnowski sentenced Lord to three years on probation and ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation and perform 500 hours of community service. He’ll also be required to undergo any treatment that is recommended.
Lord could have faced up to three years in prison.
The deal with prosecutors led to the dismissal of a more serious felony, a count of attempting to influence a public official.
Lord called the episode the “hardest and most humiliating experience of my life” and apologized to fellow law officers and his family.
His attorney, Reid Elkus, said the officer had suffered multiple concussions over the years and had recently been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
But prosecutor Rhoda Pilmer portrayed Lord as a man with choices who concocted an elaborate scheme that was “truly a breach of the public trust,”
“No one ever wanted to believe that it was Mr. Lord who was the offender in this case,” she said.
Pilmer said she was particularly incensed that Lord identified a suspect after being shown a photo lineup – one that contained mugshots of people that investigators knew had no connection to the case.
Lord, a 20-year veteran cop who had been with the Commerce City Police Department since 2007, was twice previously awarded Purple Heart medals after incidents in which he was injured on the job.
He was alone on patrol early the morning of Nov. 8 when he reported seeing a maroon Nissan
Pathfinder in the 9700 block of Peoria Street that he considered to be suspicious. According to an arrest affidavit, Lord radioed that he was going to stop and check out the vehicle. About two minutes later, he radioed “shots fired.” He also said he’d been shot once in “the vest,” according to the affidavit. Dispatchers could hear gunfire while his microphone was keyed.
When the first officer arrived, he found Lord kneeling down in front of his patrol car, holding his chest.
At that point, Lord described the Nissan pickup and provided a couple of possible license plate numbers, and he said the gunman had fled south on Peoria Street and then east on 96th Avenue, according to the affidavit.
Later, at a hospital, Lord told a detective the man in the Nissan reached out the driver’s window and fired a single shot at him, according to the affidavit. Lord told the detective that he then stepped back two or three feet and “might have gone to his knees to catch his breath as the vehicle slowly pulls away,” according to the affidavit.
That’s when Lord said he fired five rounds at the truck and may have hit it in the tailgate.
Lord gave a detailed description of the man: white, in his 40s or early 50s, with brown hair, a thin build and glasses. Ultimately, Commerce City detectives brought in a sketch artist who produced a detailed composite drawing that was made public at the same time a $20,000 reward was offered.
But detectives noticed discrepancies in Lord’s version of events while he was still at the hospital. For instance, according to the affidavit, he initially said on the radio his attacker had fled west on 96th Avenue but at the hospital he said it was east.
And ballistics tests confirmed that he was shot with his own backup weapon, according to documents obtained by 9Wants To Know.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation linked a shell casing found along the road where Lord reported being shot and a bullet recovered from his vest to his .40-caliber “backup” gun.
According to the arrest affidavit, Lord was wearing the weapon in an ankle holster when detectives interviewed him four days after he reported the shooting.
Lord was arrested the next day.
In court Friday, Lord’s attorney said he repeatedly came face-to-face with the harsh realities that police officers encounter:
- A call in which he arrived to find a man shot and a woman dead in a closet.
- A case where parents accidentally suffocated a baby by sleeping with it – then begged Lord to save it.
- A fatal Christmas Eve car crash in which a man had a fence post driven through his head.
- An incident in which a woman severely beat her 4-year-old grandson in a drug-induced rage.
- A deadly car wreck in which several teenagers were ejected from the vehicle, including one that Lord initially believed was his own daughter.
“At the time of this event, Mr. Lord had, for all intents and purposes, a mental break,” Elkus said.
He said Lord does not recall shooting himself in the chest.
After the hearing, Elkus called the plea deal “a fair and just resolution for the facts in this case.”
Adams County District Attorney Dave Young said that even if his office had taken the case to trial and Lord had been convicted it was likely that he would have been given probation.
“We really didn’t give up much by having a plea, other than not bringing citizens of the jury to come in,” Young said.
Lord was the recipient of a Purple Heart after a 2013 incident in which he reported confronting a burglar in an under-construction house and being attacked. A 9Wants To Know investigation found that incident bears similarities to the Nov. 8 incident in which he said he was shot.
In that 2013 case, as in November’s shooting, Lord was patrolling by himself in a largely undeveloped area of Commerce City off 96th Avenue. And in each case, fellow officers had no luck identifying a suspect.
Lord also was awarded a Purple Heart in 1998 after he was attacked by a man as he responded to a report of a loud party. Lord was a Thornton Police Officer at the time, and in that case an arrest was made. The man accused of attacking Lord was convicted of multiple counts of assault and resisting arrest and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is still behind bars and is eligible for parole in September.
Contact 9NEWS Reporter Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story:firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-1862