Second person arrested in UK student's slaying

Justin D. Smith, 18, has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Jonathan Krueger, a junior at the University of Kentucky. | Photo by Garrett Wymer
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Lexington police have made a second arrest arrest in the death of Jonathan Krueger, a junior at the University of Kentucky who was shot while walking home early Friday.

Krueger, 22, of Perrysburg, Ohio was killed about 2 a.m. during a robbery at Transylvania Park and East Maxwell Street. He died from a gunshot wound to the chest, according to the Fayette County Coroner.

Police arrested Efrain Diaz, 20, Friday evening and charged him with murder and robbery.

Police also arrested Justin D. Smith, 18, who has been charged with murder in the fatal shooting. In addition to murder, Smith also is charged with robbery, tampering with physical evidence and fleeing and evading stemming from a brief pursuit and standoff.

As police loaded Smith into a cruiser Friday evening, reporters asked whether he killed Krueger.

"No. Hell no," Smith replied before heading to the Fayette County jail.

Diaz likewise maintained his innocence when reporters asked if he killed Krueger.

"No ma'am. I'm innocent, ma'am. I swear on my life I'm innocent," he said. "I've never killed anybody in my life."

Smith spent several hours being questioned in police headquarters Friday after police announced they had made an arrest in the case.

Police said they did not believe Krueger knew the two suspects before the robbery and shooting.

Lexington police Chief Mark Barnard, during a news conference earlier, said investigators caught Smith quickly, but the case is not closed. They are looking for other individuals who were involved. Barnard would not say how many others could be involved.

“We’ve updated the family on our investigation and our thoughts and prayers are with them,” Barnard said.

The chief said the investigation "moved so quickly" so there was a lot that they are still piecing together. The chief said he could not say much about the case, but he scheduled the news conference because police had received multiple calls from the community.

"It has been such a quick, fluid investigation that we are still actively working on it and investigators are out in the field, so I don't want to jeopardize anything they're doing or their safety," Barnard said.

Barnard said his officers did well by making an arrest seven hours after the shooting. A large number of officers were working on the case, and he said they wanted to provide some sense of closure for Krueger's family, but he realized that this doesn't heal their wounds. Barnard said he spoke to Krueger's father and he was, understandably, very upset.

"I don't think there's anything ever anything I could say to a family or a victim that ever makes them whole again after something like this," said Barnard, who was flanked by several city leaders, including Lexington mayor Jim Gray and Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson. "It's very difficult for families."

When asked whether this would be a capital murder case, Larson said he would not discuss the case because it was pending.

"One thing I don't do is talk about a pending case," he said. "This is a pending case and as a result, I'm not going to say anything about it. If you want to know about procedures, we'll talk about those at some point. If you want to talk about facts, that sort of thing, you have to come to the trial."

Kentucky law allows prosecutors to seek the death penalty when there are aggravating circumstances when someone is killed during a robbery or there is an active emergency protective order.


Krueger, a junior in the College of Communication and Information, was shot about 2 a.m. Friday during a robbery at Transylvania Park and East Maxwell street, according to Lexington police.

Officers, responding to a report of shots being fired, found Krueger lying on East Maxwell street. After interviewing witnesses, police say, Krueger was gunned down during a robbery. A friend who was with Krueger escaped and found two people who called police. The friend told police that a minivan pulled up, two men jumped out and confronted them. The witness says the men grabbed his watch and when he tried to throw his wallet at them and run, he heard gunshots. He was not injured.

The men who called police say they thought the gunfire was fireworks until they saw Krueger's friend.

"The look on his face was just like, incredible. He was in so much shock. He was asking us if like, he could trust us, cause he was just scared of anything at that point in time.That was his friend who got shot at so it's terrifying," Thomas O'Mara, who helped the victims, said.

The University of Kentucky issued an urgent alert for students to avoid the Transylvania Park area around 3 a.m. The alert was cleared about 40 minutes later when the university issued a statement, saying "the emergency condition has passed, all conditions are normal and you may safely resume your regularly scheduled activity."


Earlier Friday, police released some details about the shooting, but they did not connect the shooting to a later search and standoff on Le Havre Road.

After the shooting, officers began looking for a man wearing a red hoodie. He was last seen leaving the area in a maroon minivan, possibly, a Chrysler Town and Country model.

Around 5:30 a.m., Lexington police Lt. Clay Combs said they tried to stop a maroon minivan because they thought the driver was under the influence. Officers say the driver took off toward a home on Le Havre Road. The man refused to come outside, so police called in its Emergency Response Unit or SWAT team.

Around 6:30 a.m., Justin Smith exited the home peacefully and was arrested.

Police recovered a weapon near Cardinal Valley neighborhood on Cambridge Drive, but would not discuss any evidence they collected.


News of Krueger's death rocked the campus.

Krueger was a photojournalist and was the photo editor for the Kernel, UK's student newspaper. Chris Poore, the Kernel's adviser, told WKYT that Krueger was tapped to be the paper's ad manager in the fall. Several students said they knew him well.


UK President Eli Capilouto, noting that it was a tragedy for the campus community, issued a statement about his death.

The president said he notified the campus community Friday morning of the death of a student.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to Jonathan's family, friends, faculty members, and fellow students," he said. "We have reached out to his family to let them know that we are here to assist them in any way we can at this incomprehensible moment."

Capilouto noted that the shooting happened off campus, but it "is a stark reminder that all members of our campus community should at all times be vigilant about their safety, and the safety of others. We are each other’s keeper."

"It is also in a moment like this that we are reminded of how fragile and precious life is," he said. "Let us all keep Jonathan’s family, loved ones and friends in our thoughts and prayers."

Krueger's fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, issued a press release that, in part, said "Jonathan had a way of putting a smile on everyone's face, every single day. His passion for photography and athletics was great; his love for people was even greater."

Krueger's co-workers at The Kentucky Kernel said he was an easy friend to anyone he met and was always stepping into help when it was needed.

Krueger worked as a photo editor for The Kernel and this year covered the men's basketball team all the way through the Final Four. His adviser at The Kernel says, next year would Krueger would have been stepping up into the role of advertising manager.

His friends say Krueger always brought a smile and positive attitude to their newsroom, something they say will be greatly missed.

"We just saw him yesterday so it is hard to grasp. At The Kernel we are very tight knit ... we spend every evening together so we are like family," said Morgan Eads.

Jonathan Krueger | Photo provided by Beta Theta Pi

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