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Kenneth Lilly Gets 86 Months In Jail For Shooting School Bus Driver, Thomas Benson, On I-35W

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Kenneth Lilly has been sentenced to 86 months in prison for opening fire on a school bus driver in the middle of a February snow storm on Interstate 35W.

Investigators say the bus scraped Lilly's car as it was trying to merge onto the interstate in Minneapolis on the afternoon of February 5. Minnesota Department of Transportation cameras show Lilly getting out of his vehicle and approaching the bus while they were stopped in traffic.

Lilly claims the bus hit him while he was walking in front of it, so he fired five shots into the windshield. One bullet grazed the bus driver's head, and another hit his arm. A little girl was on the bus, but she was not hit.

"I overreacted to a situation that I believed inaccurately was a threat to my life," Lilly said. "I acted in a hyper-vigilant manner."

Lilly apologized to the bus driver, 78-year-old Thomas Benson, and also apologized to the 7-year-old girl who was a passenger on the bus.

Kenneth Lilly
Kenneth Lilly (credit: Hennepin County Jail)

Lilly pleaded guilty to the charges against him back in August.

On Friday, Benson said that he agreed with the sentence, and said he was glad the court rejected Lilly's "imperfect self-defense" claim.

What follows is his statement in its entirety:

Thank you your honor for allowing me the time to make this statement. Due to the defendant's inability to control his emotions, I was struck by three bullets. One hit and split my left ear in half and I had to have surgery to repair it. Unfortunately, I am completely deaf in that ear as a result and now when I have problems with my hearing aid in the right ear, sometimes I can't hear at all. This causes me to feel unbalanced at times and isolated from others.

Another bullet tore off the tip of my left finger, traveled up by arm and lodged in my bicep. I endured another surgery to have that bullet removed and another bullet went through my left shoulder. I am left handed and these two bullets caused nerve damage which destroyed approximately 15% usage of this hand. I find myself randomly dropping things and experience numbness and tingling.

The psychological effects are just as bad. The longest moments of my life are when I was calling the child's name to see if she was okay and there was no answer. Two additional bullets had been fired and I couldn't get up due to shock and pain, to check on her. My daughters and grandchildren suffered emotionally from this as well, and want to send the message to Mr. Lilly that they hope he understands his actions caused a whole family a lot of anxiety, tears, and pain.

I used to leave my windows and curtains open but now have had periods when I am afraid to do that and for quite some time was afraid every time I had to leave my house that I would open the door and find the shooter standing there waiting to finish the job.

I find myself being nervous that he may show up and try to harm me again.

Mr. Lilly is lucky he is not being sentenced for homicide instead of assault.

I will accept whatever punishment you hand down, but I implore you not to give him the minimum. Thank you for your consideration.



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