Bus shooter pleads guilty


The man who shot at a school bus, wounding the driver, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Monday.

The original charge of attempted second-degree murder was amended by prosecutors to first-degree assault and Kenneth Lilly, 32, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty to that charge Monday afternoon. He will be sentenced on Oct. 31 to between three and eight years in prison. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office will argue for eight years.

During his guilty plea, Lilly agreed to much of what was in the criminal complaint, although he maintained that the bus driver struck him with the bus.

According to the complaint, on Feb. 5, about 2 p.m., school bus driver Thomas Benson was trying to merge onto Interstate 35W near Chicago Avenue during a snow storm. The bus scraped Lilly’s black sedan, although Benson was unaware of it.

Lilly stopped his car in the left lane of slowly moving traffic and walked towards the bus. He tried to get Benson to open the door to exchange information but he did not because there was a child on board. Instead, Lilly told the court, as Lilly walked to the front of the vehicle, Benson hit him with the bus.

Senior Hennepin County Attorney Dan Allard questioned Lilly about that statement and got him to admit that the bus was moving so slowly that it was a bump and it did not knock him down.

Lilly told the court that he pulled out his 9 mm handgun, which he carries as a security guard, and fired five shots into the bus windshield, grazing Benson’s head and wounding his left arm. The young girl on the bus was not injured.

Lilly then called 911 and told responding officers he feared for his life. However, with his guilty plea Monday, Lilly dropped a defense of acting in self-defense.

Lilly was scheduled to go on trial Sept. 23.