The man accused of ambushing and fatally shooting a Baton Rouge police officer several hours after he allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend's stepfather in April pleaded not guilty Friday to first-degree murder charges that could carry the death penalty.

Ronnie Kato was indicted in late July in the slaying of Lt. Glenn Hutto Jr. and Curtis Richardson, but his arraignment was delayed several times due to issues involving his legal representation and then by Hurricane Delta.

Kato, shackled and wearing an orange and white prison jumpsuit and a blue mask, appeared Friday morning before state District Judge Richard Anderson, flanked by his new attorneys, Capital Defense Project lawyers Sean Collins and Lena Hinton.

They declined comment after the brief court proceeding.

A status hearing was scheduled for Jan. 21.

Authorities say Kato, 36, of Baton Rouge, killed Richardson, 58, his girlfriend’s stepfather, during a domestic dispute on North Pamela Drive on April 26. He’s believed to have fatally shot Hutto, 45. several hours later while police were searching for Kato at a home on Conrad Drive.

Kato also allegedly shot Cpl. Derrick Maglone in the police encounter. Maglone was critically injured but released from the hospital May 7.

A detective previously testified that Kato ambushed the officers with an assault-style rifle as they searched for him in the backyard.

He first shot Maglone, authorities say, then Hutto. After Hutto was seriously injured, he crawled toward Maglone and radioed for help, but Kato then stood over him and fatally shot the officer, Baton Rouge Police homicide detective Logan Collins testified in July during a probable cause hearing in the case.

Collins said the same AR-15 assault-style rifle was used to kill Hutto and Richardson.

Hutto, a 21-year veteran of the police force and a sergeant at the time of his death, received the rank of lieutenant posthumously.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III has said his office intends to pursue the death penalty in the case.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.