Like most of us, last Tuesday morning was interrupted with a BLUE ALERT on our phones indicating that there was a police officer severely injured and to be on the lookout for a gray car. Most of us swiped it away and headed back to our day-to-day lives.
I was running late for a meeting in Westport. Jumping in my car, a friend of mine who lived a few blocks away said there was a lot of police activity in their neighborhood. Not normally one to get news tips, I decided to swing by on the way to my meeting. I was already late, a few more minutes wouldn’t matter.
Driving the familiar four blocks from my house to the area around North Kansas City High School, the air shifted. Sirens were heard. Lights were left flashing on awkwardly parked police cruisers. There were police cars from not only North Kansas City, but also from nearby Riverside and Kansas City. This wasn’t a run of the mill event. I pulled off in a nearby parking lot.
Listen, I’m your weekly fun-time columnist in this space. I generally write about gas station food and the latest shenanigans my son is up to. I haven’t reported on anything since college, but this felt different. I grabbed my phone and my notepad and headed up the street.
There were people standing around talking in muffled tones. Whatever happened happened in the middle of a residential neighborhood. About a half-block ahead of me there was police tape and at least a dozen police officers standing around with stern looks on their faces.
“What happened,” I asked a bystander.
“Cop got shot. I heard three shots. Came outside and there he was,” the bystander told me with a glazed look on his face.
The cop was Officer Daniel Vasquez and by now you know the story about his “ordinary” traffic stop. The court records indicate that he stopped a man who allegedly executed him in the street. In North Kansas City. Over a traffic stop.
I held my phone up to take a couple of photographs of the crime scene. I walked closer. There was blood in the street.
“Get the f&&& out of here. Show some respect,” an officer clapped at me. I was confused. I hadn’t crossed any police tape. I still hadn’t fully comprehended what had occurred. I realized that I was wearing cargo shorts, a ratty t-shirt and a baseball cap. I looked like a slob and not a reporter. I get now why the officer was mad.
Running even later for my meeting, that was my cue to leave the scene. On my way down to Westport, I drove by the Ale House restaurant, a building that had its own shootout in the streets only a couple of days prior.
During my meeting, my phone chirped again. Officer Vasquez had died from his injuries. A man shot a police officer in cold blood less than a mile from my home with a gun using parts that he allegedly 3D printed.
The whole week I’ve contemplated how the world is changing. This likely won’t be the only reporting I’ll be forced to do. This won’t be the only random shooting in my neighborhood. This won’t be the last BLUE ALERT that we see on our phones. The world is starting to look more and more like the Wild West and the crazy is getting closer and closer. The air has changed forever.
May God bless Officer Vasquez.
(When Chris Kamler isn’t reporting he often can be found tweeting as @TheFakeNed on Twitter)