KANSAS CITY, Mo. – An Olathe, Kansas, man who led police officers on a high-speed chase down a runway at the downtown airport was sentenced in federal court yesterday for disrupting airport operations as well as illegally possessing a firearm.
Efren Torres-Rodriguez, 35, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Howard F. Sachs to 78 months in federal prison without parole.
On March 8, 2023, Torres-Rodriguez pleaded guilty to damaging and disrupting an international airport and to being a felon and an unlawful drug user in possession of a firearm.
Kansas City, Missouri police officers were notified of a suspicious car, a Dodge Charger, parked near a gate at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport on Feb. 1, 2022. When officers arrived, they found Torres-Rodriguez passed out in the driver’s seat of the running car. Officers turned off the car and opened the door, which woke up Torres-Rodriguez.
Officers ordered Torres-Rodriguez out of the car, but he refused. Instead, Torres-Rodriguez started the vehicle and drove away, crashing through the gate to the airfield. Torres-Rodriguez drove at speeds up to 100 miles per hour down the airport runway, with officers in pursuit. Torres-Rodriguez drove on a tarmac on the west side of the airfield. When he attempted to cross over the airstrip into a grassy area, his vehicle became inoperable. Officers removed Torres-Rodriguez from the vehicle and placed him under arrest. Officers found a clear plastic bag in his pants pocket that contained 4.6 grams of methamphetamine.
When officers searched Torres-Rodriguez’s vehicle, they found a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun with an extended magazine, which were both empty of ammunition, under the driver’s seat. They also found several rounds of ammunition and drug paraphernalia.
Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone who has been convicted of a felony or who is an illegal user of a controlled substance to be in possession of any firearm or ammunition. Torres-Rodriguez has prior felony convictions for possession of a firearm with a prior violent offense and for being a felon in possession of a firearm. Torres-Rodriguez also admitted to using methamphetamine every other day and to smoking marijuana daily since he was 15 years old.
As a result of Torres-Rodriguez’s actions, the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport’s activities were significantly disrupted. For approximately 40 minutes, operations at the airport were closed and planes were not allowed to land or take off. Torres-Rodriguez interfered with the operations at the airport as two aircrafts had delayed departures, one aircraft had a delayed arrival and had to remain airborne for approximately 50 minutes, one aircraft had to cancel its flight and one aircraft did not depart. When Torres-Rodriguez crashed his vehicle through the Downtown Airport’s gate, he destroyed the gate and caused serious damage to the facility’s fence that is designed to keep both trespassers and animals away from the runways. At sentencing, the parties presented evidence that Torres-Rodriguez caused over $23,000 in damage to the airport. The insurance covering the vehicle driven by Torres-Rodriguez paid for all damages to the airport prior to sentencing. Torres-Rodriguez’s actions also served to endanger the safety of the persons utilizing the air navigation facility.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Alford. It was investigated by the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and the FBI.