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Federal, Kentucky authorities seek fugitive ex-Army Ranger

July 18, 2012|By David Zucchino
  • Army veteran John C. Buckley fled a Kentucky court before a jury found him guilty of rape.
Army veteran John C. Buckley fled a Kentucky court before a jury found him… (Fayette County sheriff's…)

John Calvin Buckley IV is a former Army Ranger who served five combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's highly trained in weapons and combat tactics.

He's also a fugitive.

Buckley, 29, has been on the run since July 12, when he cut off an ankle monitor and disappeared, just before a jury in Lexington, Ky., delivered a guilty verdict in his trial on charges of raping a local woman.

Federal marshals, along with police in Lexington and in towns across Kentucky, are actively searching for Buckley, who has a violent past and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, said Lexington police public information officer Sherelle Roberts.

"Because of his high level of training, he is considered dangerous, and we would not want anyone to try to approach him," Roberts told The Times. "He can be combative at a very high level."

Anyone who believes they may have spotted Buckley should stay away from him and call 911 immediately, Roberts said.

When Buckley was arrested on the 2010 rape charge, police said, officials confiscated an assault rifle, shotgun and handgun, along with body armor and a stockpile of ammunition. Authorities fear Buckley may be armed while on the run, Assistant Commonwealth's Atty. Todd Bradbury told reporters last week.

Because of Buckley's history of violence, authorities fear he may try to harm people associated with the rape case, including the victim, detectives and prosecutors.

In 2009, Buckley was charged with pulling a gun on an off-duty Lexington police officer. He was jailed before a grand jury decided to dismiss the charges.

"I have been in jail for 110 days because I embarrassed a detective two years ago," Buckley wrote in a letter that was included in court documents in the rape case, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

According to prosecutors, Buckley once beat a roommate with a baseball bat during a fight and also broke a man's nose outside a local bar. He faces charges of intimidating a witness in a drug case by firing at the home of the witness' mother, police said.

"He blames the police department for his criminal acts; he blames the commonwealth's attorneys office," Bradbury said. "He blames everyone but himself."

Authorities said Buckley often bragged of his military prowess and fist-fighting abilities, and told people the police were afraid of him. He showed friends a scrapbook he kept of photos of people he claimed to have killed in Afghanistan, according to court documents.

In another letter included in court documents, Buckley's mother, Sandra Merritt, wrote: "He is a law-abiding, productive man, a national hero who deserves our respect and gratitude."

Buckley has friends and family in and around Lexington, police said, and may have had help in fleeing. He also has family in Colorado, connections in Mexico and "Army buddies" around the country, Bradbury said.

Buckley, who was free on bond during the rape trial, was last seen at the courthouse during a break on the last day of a three-day trial. He failed to return to court, where the jury convicted him of rape, sodomy, unlawful imprisonment and assault. Jurors recommended a 20-year prison sentence.

Buckley probably will face charges of jumping bail and tampering with his ankle monitor if, and when, he's captured. Police found the damaged monitor on the street.

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david.zucchino@latimes.com

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