NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The North Kansas City police officer who was shot Tuesday morning during a traffic stop has died.
NKC Chief of Police Kevin Freeman identified the officer as Daniel Vasquez, 32.
Freeman described Vasquez, who had been with the NKC Police Department since early July 2021, as “a phenomenal person” and “a shining star in our department.”
“He was easy to talk to and didn’t have an enemy,” Freeman said. “Everybody was his friend. It’s just senseless. It’s senseless all the time, but he was a great, great human being.”
Freeman said the NKC police force is small and tight-knit, so Vasquez’s death — a first in the line of duty for the department — will hit hard.
“It is a small department,” Freeman said. “And with small departments, like a small city, you know each other, you know each other’s personal likes and dislikes and what people like to do for fun. It is a tight-knit department and it’s going to be a struggle for a while for our officers to come to grips with that and be ready to still go out and do the job.”
NKC Mayor Bryant DeLong later vowed support from the city of fewer than 4,500 just north of downtown across the Missouri River.
“It’s turned from a sad to a tragic day,” DeLong said. “I know the whole North Kansas City community stands behind our police force and will be here for the family.”
A donation page to support Vasquez's family is now up and running.
A person of interest in the deadly shooting has been taken into custody, Clay County Sheriff Will Akin said earlier Tuesday.
Freeman said he surrendered to Kansas City, Missouri, police officers north of the river after the shooting.
Vasquez initiated a traffic stop on a gray early 2000s Ford Taurus, which had an expired temporary registration tag, around 10:41 a.m. in the area of east 21st Avenue and Clay Street.
The driver exited the vehicle and began firing at Vasquez, who was shot in the head.
Vasquez was taken to North Kansas City Hospital, where he died from his injuries. A procession from the funeral home to the medical examiner's office for an autopsy took place Tuesday afternoon.
The tag, which had expired in 2018, was originally registered to a Buick, according to Akin.
“Traffic stops — any kind of vehicle stops — is the No. 1 most dangerous situation that a police officer can be in,” Akin said.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a Blue Alert, which is put out when an officer is killed or seriously injured, shortly after the shooting. It was canceled after the person of interest was taken into custody.
Kansas City, Missouri, police and other local police departments responded to the incident, helping with traffic control and searching for the suspect vehicle before the person of interest was arrested.
County and federal law enforcement officials also assisted with the investigation.
“This is an all-hands on deck type of response, because we don’t know where the suspect is now, but he’s perhaps in somebody else’s community,” Akin said. “… We need to catch him, so he doesn’t do harm to someone else.”
The Officer Down Memorial Page, which catalogs and memorializes officers killed in the line of duty, does not show any previous deaths among members of the NKC Police Department.
Vasquez is the seventh law enforcement officer shot and killed in the line of duty in the Kansas City area since 2016.
Independence Police Officer Blaize Madrid-Evans was shot and killed Sept. 15, 2021, during a residence check for a wanted suspect.
Overland Park Police Officer Mike Mosher was shot and killed May 3, 2020, during a traffic stop as he drove into work to begin his shift.
Lancaster was shot and killed May 9, 2016, while responding to a report of a suspicious person near Hollywood Casino, and Melton was shot by a fleeing suspect July 19, 2016.