Jury finds Springfield man guilty of second-degree murder in death of McHenry County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Keltner

A funeral service for McHenry County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Keltner is held at Woodstock North High School on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Inset of Floyd E. Brown, who is charged with killing Keltner and attempting to kill another three other members of the Marshals Service task force.

A Springfield man was found guilty by a federal jury of second-degree murder in the 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 charge of manslaughter, began deliberations about noon Friday and returned to the courtroom about 4:30 p.m. Sentencing is now set for July 19; Brown faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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 Colatorti, were among more than 50 people who observed the proceedings on monitors set up in a nearby courtroom.

“Today, we also realized that no verdict can bring Jake back, and justice doesn’t always appear how we picture,” Prim said in a statement following the verdict. “But, we are hopeful that it will allow the Keltner family the chance to close a chapter in their lives and take the next steps in healing.”

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, hiding out from Bloomington police where he had evaded arrest for 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.

McHenry County sheriff's deputy Jake Keltner

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.

“Police been [expletive] with me for a long [expletive] time, since I was a [expletive] kid,” Brown said in the video. “You, they influenced me to be the [expletive] I am today. You know what I’m saying, a piece of [expletive] low-life criminal. To some, that may be true. I don’t give a (expletive) about anyone’s opinion. My loved ones know about me, they can attest to the man I am.”

Paccagnini reiterated the opening arguments made by prosecutors last week and testimony from the marshals who spoke about the events of that morning and what led to Brown “spraying” the hotel door with 10 bullets, many shot across the hall into other hotel rooms and some came within inches of striking the marshals in the hallway.

Brown then jumped out the window where he encountered Keltner, who was outside keeping watch on the window of Brown’s third-floor hotel room, prosecutors said.

The recording of the 911 call that Keltner made after the marshals called out “shots fired” and just before being struck by Brown’s bullet also was played during closing arguments. Jurors only 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 then said Brown fled the scene in his gray vehicle, heading south and ending up on the side of a highway in Lincoln. After about a five hour standoff, he was arrested.

Paccagnini told jurors that Brown’s actions that day and the planning in the weeks leading up to March 7, 2019, amount to first-degree murder. The jury has the options of first-degree murder, second-degree murder or manslaughter. To prove first-degree murder, the jury needs to think Brown planned and intended to kill the marshals. About three hours into deliberation the jury had a question as to what is the difference between forethought and premeditated.

“The defendant acted deliberately, voluntarily and intentionally, killing Jacob Keltner,” Paccagnini said. “This is premeditated. [Keltner was not killed] in the heat of passion. He did not act on impulse. He acted with a purpose. Why jump with an assault rifle? It is not reasonable to respond to the police with shooting at them. He did not respond in a heat of passion.”

But defense attorney Patrick Eamon Boyle argued that Brown did act in a “heat of passion” and never planned on shooting at the police officers. He said he never met any of the officers and did not know they were coming to arrest him that day. 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.

A program is tucked inside an officer's hat. Funeral services for McHenry County Deputy Sheriff Jacob Keltner is held at Woodstock North High School on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

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.” They tried to “make the best of a chaotic and confusing situation that day,” Boyle said.

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.

He also pointed to a witness who said he saw Brown walking to his car with a limp but did not see him shoot his gun.

Boyle reminded the jury of Brown’s testimony when he took the stand on Thursday: Brown testified that when he jumped out of the window, he was knocked out and only remembers laying on his back, looking up at the window and seeing the curtains blowing. He said he then remembered getting up and going to his car and leaving. He only remembers what happened inside the hotel room and driving away, he has no memory of shooting Keltner, Boyle said.

“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.”

A paramedic testified this week that when someone jumps from a window that high up, “it is typically a suicide,” Boyle said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Talia Bucci called the defense’s explanation “absolute nonsense.”

“He remembers everything before and after killing Jake (but not) the exact moment when Jacob Keltner was killed?” Bucci said. “That is absolute nonsense. He is presumed innocent. He is not presumed truthful. The defendant is the one who killed Jacob Keltner. We have proven that beyond a reasonable doubt.”