KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission has a program called "The Surviving Spouses and Family’s Endowment (SAFE)."
It's meant to support the families of first responders who are killed in the line of duty.
Since 2003, SAFE has served 34 families.
Raymore Chief of Police Jan Zimmerman is the director of SAFE and said that in the Kansas City area, seven first responders died on the job in 2020 and five died in 2021.
According to Zimmerman, North Kansas City officer Daniel Vasquez was the first officer killed while on the job this year.
“It was only three days ago last year, they graduated on July 17,” Gary Evans, the grandfather of Blaize Madrid-Evans, said.
Madrid-Evans was an officer with the Independence Police Department who also died in the line of duty in 2021.
Madrid-Evans and Vasquez went through Kansas City Regional Police Academy together.
“The nicest group of young men and women, they were all just so happy and proud,” he said.
Zimmerman said that this was the first time she's seen something like this in her decades-long career.
“I can’t recall in my 43 years in law enforcement, that I’ve ever seen something like this happening. It’s just heartbreaking,” Zimmerman said.
They were both gunned down and killed 10 months apart. Evans now shares that grief with the Vasquez family.
“I want Daniel’s family to know that our hearts are breaking for them, we know what they are going through," Evans said. "I’d like to say things will get better, but it’s going to take a while."
Zimmerman recalled comforting Madrid-Evans' mother after he was killed.
“I remember saying to Shannon, Blaize’s mom, this isn’t a family you want to be a part of, but you are now and we will continue to support you from now on,” Zimmerman said. “Sometimes to be sorry is not enough, you can’t possibly understand how that family feels.”
The $25,000 check from SAFE is for those families to get through in the meantime.
“No questions asked, no strings attached, the money is there for them to spend as they see fit, whether it’s paying the rent or buy the groceries,” she said.
When the unthinkable happens, many step up.
“I know Blaize will be up there for him, Blaize will greet him and will put his arm around him and show him the ropes,” Evans said.