Missouri police charge man with 2 counts first-degree murder after officer, court employee shot

A Kansas City-area man whose home was sold as he struggled to pay delinquent taxes killed a court employee who tried to serve an eviction notice and a police officer who responded, authorities said Friday in announcing charges.

Larry Acree, of Independence, Missouri, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of first-degree assault in the wounding of another officer who responded, and three counts of armed criminal action, according to court documents.

The shooting occurred when court employee Drexel Mack tried to serve the eviction notice.

The 41-year-old was shot, and then officers responding to the scene were shot at, one struck fatally and two others injured before Acree was taken into custody.

“Ambush is a strong word but it may be one that’s fitting here,” Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney Jean Peters Baker said at a news conference.

Bond in the case is set at $2 million. Baker said Acree, who sustained minor injuries, remains hospitalized and will be moved to the jail as soon as he is able.

Evictions have turned deadly in the past. In August 2022, an Arizona constable who got the job when her predecessor quit over frustration about serving eviction notices was shot and killed while carrying out that same duty. The gunman, his neighbor and the manager of his apartment complex also died, authorities said.

That same month, an Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office deputy was shot and killed and a second deputy wounded while the two were serving eviction papers at a home on the southwest side of Oklahoma City.

In Jackson County, the process servers wear bullet proof vests and carry firearms and pepper spray, said Jack Foster, director of Civil Process Department for the court. He said it was premature to say whether there would be changes in procedures.

According to the probable cause affidavit, a “Notice to Vacate” sign was posted at the property on Feb. 23, the latest in a series of court actions that began one year earlier. Acree “didn’t have any right to be there,” Baker said.

With Acree facing delinquent taxes dating to at least 2019, the 9-acre property had been sold. Acree had bought the land in 2005 and then built the three-bedroom, 2,419-square-foot home, Jackson County property records show.

But he had a history of financial problems, including bankruptcies in 1992 and 2004. The 69-year-old also owed more than $30,000 to a roofing company, according to court records.

The sale of the property was completed on Aug. 14 for $260,000, and the new owner paid the back taxes. The new owner didn’t immediately respond to a Facebook message from the AP seeking comment.

On Thursday, Mack and another process server arrived at the address to physically evict Acree. A padlock was removed from the gated drive, and the two process servers approached the front of the home, where they knocked and announced their presence.

No one answered, so the property maintenance contractor drilled out the lock on the front door, the statement said. They then entered the home and were fired upon. Mack was struck and fell to the floor just inside the front door, court records said.

The other process server ran and sought help, court records said. Independence police then rushed to the home, where three officers entered and tried to retrieve Mack. They then came under additional gunfire, court records said.

“They came to our rescue, and they paid the price,” Foster said.

Officer Cody Allen, a 35-year-old father of two young children, was struck in the head, and a second officer was struck in the torso, court records said.

Officers then returned fire, and Acree was taken into custody. No attorney is listed for Acree in online court records. Acree’s brother, Bill Acree Jr., said he didn’t know of the charges or the shooting when reached by The Associated Press. He said he hasn’t seen Larry Acree for 17 years, and they haven’t been close for a long time.

The wounded were taken to nearby Centerpoint Medical Hospital, where Mack and Allen were pronounced dead.

The officer struck in the torso underwent surgery and is expected to survive. That officer also sustained additional injuries to the arms and face.

Police Chief Adam Dustman said previously that a third officer also “took gunshot rounds” and had minor injuries. No charges were immediately filed stemming from that officer’s injuries.

Baker said more charges were coming but that they just weren’t prepared yet. She declined to release details on the type of firearm or firearms used.

A memorial of flowers and flags was growing Friday at the Independence Police Department.

Dustman said Allen took a break from policing to work in the private sector but missed it so much that he rejoined the department about two years ago. The Grandview Police Department, where Allen also once worked, described his death as “a huge loss.”

Jackson County Presiding Judge Jalilah Otto said that because Mack was an employee of the court, the case will be moved to another county chosen by the Missouri Supreme Court.

Mack had worked for the county for over a decade. Otto described Mack, who had a 19-year-old son in Miami and a fiancée in the Kansas City area with three children, as “beloved by many.” And Foster, who hired, Mack, said he had a “big heart.”

Independence is a suburb of Kansas City, with about 122,000 residents.

Baker noted that the tragedy followed a recent shooting at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory rally in which one woman died and around two dozen others were wounded.

“Our region has been weighted with it seems one tragedy after another after another,” she said, noting that most are linked to firearms. “It’s a lot for one community to bear.”


AP reporter Jim Salter in O’Fallon, Missouri, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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