Former serviceman gets life sentence for murder of police officer

A former military serviceman, Grady Wayne Wilkes, has been handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of an Auburn police officer. The officer had responded to a domestic disturbance call at Wilkes’ residence. The jury delivered the life sentence verdict on Thursday, following Wilkes’ conviction for capital murder of a police officer earlier in the week. He was also found guilty of attempting to murder two other officers.

According to the prosecution, Wilkes, clad in a military helmet and body armor, opened fire on the responding officers in 2019. During the sentencing, Wilkes expressed remorse for his actions, apologizing to the court and the family of the slain officer, William Buechner.

Wilkes’ remorse was evident as he addressed the court and Buechner’s family, as reported by the Opelika-Auburn News. He expressed his inability to articulate his regret, acknowledging that no words could compensate for their loss.

During the trial, the courtroom heard Buechner’s final words, captured on his body camera after he was shot. His plea for divine intervention was a poignant reminder of the tragic incident. The prosecution had initially sought the death penalty for Wilkes.

The prosecution painted a picture of a man intent on causing harm, with Lee County District Attorney Jessica Ventiere telling jurors that Wilkes had intended to “kill every single living soul” on his porch. The defense, however, argued that Wilkes was mentally ill and had not intended to kill the officer.

Wilkes had served in the Alabama National Guard since 2010 and was leading an infantry combat unit at the time of the shooting, according to a Guard spokesperson in 2019.