A Kansas farmer shot and killed a fugitive in rural Sumner County Monday night, and ended a manhunt that started earlier that day. Authorities are calling the act “self-defense.”
The manhunt of 42-year-old Joseph L. Lamasters of Creston, Iowa, started after he failed to pay a toll at the south terminal of the Kansas Turnpike, Sumner County Sheriff Darren Chambers told the Wichita NBC affiliate. Since Lamasters apparently didn’t have any cash on him, he gave the attendant his ID so he could go some.
While Lamasters was gone, booth operators ran a check on the ID and discovered that there was a warrant out for his arrest in the neighboring state of Iowa.
According to the report, the arrest warrant said that Lamasters was wanted for drug charges and it cautioned that he had been known to carry or use a gun in the past.
Booth operators contacted the state troopers, who quickly responded and waited for him at the Turnpike. While on his way back to the Turnpike, Lamasters saw the cops, abandoned his car and took off running into the woods in Wellington, a town about 35 miles south of Wichita.
“Because it’s such a rural area, we decided to go door to door to the farmhouses and let the farmers know … to keep an eye out for the individual,” Chambers told reporters.
Except for the interstate, Sumner County is said to be a rural area with lots of forest and lots of farmland. It’s a place that still has dirt roads and where houses are sometimes miles apart.
A local newspaper reported that after looking for Lamasters for three house, the authorities suspended their search. Two hours later, around 5 o’clock, a farmer, who was out burning hedgerow, noticed a man wandering the area.
The farmer, who was armed with a shotgun, confronted the man, told him he was calling the cops and pointed the gun at him, but the man took off running. The farmer told authorities that since he didn’t feel threatened he just let the man run away.
But then the farmer said he realized that the individual was heading in the direction of a relative’s house and that it was around a time when a woman might’ve been alone inside of it, so he grabbed his 17-year-old son and they headed over there.
They arrived around 5:30 p.m and searched the yard, but didn’t find anything — no one was even home — so they started checking the other buildings on the property.
In one of those buildings, Lamasters is said to have jumped out from behind a pile of feed sacks, rushed the farmer and said he was going to kill him, so the farmer opened fire. Lamasters died right there in the shed and, as it turns out, he was unarmed.
While the Sheriff said that he believes the farmer’s story and that he will not press charges, he still had to turn the case over to the district attorney for review. Despite the case undergoing further investigation, it doesn’t look like the farmer will face any legal challenges.
“Based on the scene and a witness and the history of the gentleman, we don’t feel this was anything more than self-defense,” Chambers told The Wichita Eagle.
“I hate to see him in this position, but he did what he felt like he had to do,” Chambers said. “He wanted to protect his family.”