Man who shot McHenry County deputy convicted of second-degree murder
A Springfield man was found guilty by a federal jury of second-degree murder in the fatal 2019 shooting of McHenry County sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner and the attempted murder of three other U.S. marshals.
The jury found Floyd E. Brown, 42, not guilty of first-degree murder in Keltner's shooting, rejecting arguments by prosecutors that Brown was a man who hated police and planned to shoot at U.S. marshals when they came to a Rockford hotel to serve him an arrest warrant.
Brown's defense attorney argued Brown acted in "a heat of passion" and could not have shot Keltner in the hotel's parking lot because of the injuries he sustained jumping from the window of his third-story hotel room.
The jury, which also rejected a possible lower sentence of manslaughter, began deliberations about noon Friday and returned to the courtroom about 4:30 p.m. Sentencing is set for July 19.
Keltner's family members, friends and fellow sheriff's deputies, including McHenry County Sheriff Bill Prim, McHenry County Undersheriff Robb Tadelman and sheriff's candidate Tony Colatoriti, were among more than 50 people who observed the proceedings on monitors set up in a nearby courtroom.
Brown was accused of shooting at the door of his hotel room while three marshals -- Michael Schulte, Michael Flannery and Dan Kramer -- stood on the other side and then shooting Keltner, who was part of a U.S. Marshals Service task force, in the hotel's parking lot. The marshals were there on March 7, 2019, to serve Brown with an arrest warrant.
Brown had been staying at the Extended Stay America in Rockford with his girlfriend since mid-December, evading arrest for a Bloomington burglary months earlier, prosecutors said. The girlfriend paid for the hotel on a weekly basis.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Paccagnini said in closing arguments Friday morning that Brown was "deliberate and intentional" in killing Keltner and attempting to kill the other marshals, and that amounts to first-degree murder.
As Brown waited in hotel room 305, where he had an arsenal of loaded weapons and ammunition, he was "studying, planning and preparing" for police to come, and when they came he was going to be ready for them, Paccagnini said.
He searched and watched YouTube videos on police officers and marshals being shot at and ambushed by gunfire, as well as on how to clean a rifle. He also made his own video spewing his hatred for police officers, Paccagnini said.
With expletives sprinkled throughout, Brown calmly and deliberately spoke in one video, blaming the police for the man he is today.
Paccagnini reiterated testimony about the events of that morning and what led to Brown's "spraying" the hotel door with 10 bullets, some of which came within inches of striking the marshals in the hallway.
Brown then jumped out his third-floor window and encountered Keltner, who was outside keeping watch, prosecutors said.
The recording of the 911 call that Keltner made was played during closing arguments. Jurors heard the 911 operator asking, "What's your emergency?"
Keltner never responded. The only sound heard from his end of the call was two pops, which Paccagnini said was the two shots Brown fired from his rifle, and a steady, beeping horn.
The prosecutor said Brown then drove away, ending up on the side of a highway in downstate Lincoln. After about a five-hour standoff, he was arrested.
The jury had the options of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter. To prove first-degree murder, the jury needed to think Brown planned and intended to kill the marshals. About three hours into deliberation the jury had a question as to the difference between "forethought" and "premeditated."
Defense attorney Patrick Eamon Boyle argued that Brown acted in the "heat of passion." There was a bulletproof vest found in Brown's hotel room, and had he been planning a shootout with the marshals, he would have been wearing it, Boyle said.
He said Brown reacted the way he did because of past interactions with police and a troubled childhood in and out of foster care. Boyle said Brown's uncle once hit him in the head with a baseball bat so hard that he almost died and required surgery.
Boyle acknowledged the tragedy in Keltner's death and that police were "heroic" that day when they "rushed into a dangerous situation."
But, he said, Brown did not shoot Keltner. He referred to earlier testimony from an orthopedic surgeon who said Brown broke his wrist so badly from jumping out of the window that he could not have shot the rifle, which requires two hands to aim and shoot.
"No rational person's plan involves leaping out of a third-story window," Boyle said. "That's madness. That would not have been anyone's plan."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Talia Bucci called the defense's explanation "absolute nonsense."
"The defendant is the one who killed Jacob Keltner," Bucci said. "We have proven that beyond a reasonable doubt."