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Clay County prosecutors pursue death penalty for man charged with killing NKC police officer Daniel Vasquez

NEW Joshua Rocha mugshot.jpg
Slain NKC police officer Daniel Vasquez.jpg
Posted at 9:39 AM, Mar 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-21 18:28:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Clay County Prosecuting Attorney's Office filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing North Kansas City police officer Daniel Vasquez, who died while making a traffic stop last July.

Joshua Rocha is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the killing of Vasquez.

Rocha turned himself in less than 20 minutes after Vasquez was shot and killed, and allegedly admitted to killing Vasquez “because he did not want to go to jail or have his vehicle towed."

Clay County Prosecuting Attorney Zachary Thompson's office called the crime "outrageously or wantonly vile, horrible or inhuman in that it involved depravity of mind," according to a court filing announcing the intent to seek the death penalty.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Thompson said Vasquez's family and the North Kansas City Police Department all made the choice to seek the death penalty.

Thompson also said there were three reasons behind the death penalty filing against Rocha.

His office believes the offense was outrageously vile, the offense was committed against a police officer and Rocha did it to avoid arrest.

Thompson also acknowledged this could be a decades-long process.

“I don’t put a dollar amount on justice, and I don’t think the citizens of Clay County do either,” Thompson said. “My goal in this case to achieve justice for those affected by the case.”

Rocha's attorneys requested a change of venue.

Instead, it was announced in October that a jury impaneled in St. Charles County will hear the case.

The public defender's office has a specific unit that handles capital punishment cases. Rocha will get a new attorney equipped to handle the case, due to the prosecutor's office's filing to pursue the death penalty.

Another hearing is set for May 2 at 1:30 p.m.