A Kansas City, Kan. police officer was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon while responding to a reported drive-by shooting. Officials said Capt. Robert David Melton, 46, was pronounced dead at University of Kansas Hospital at 2:55 p.m. local time.
Later Tuesday, authorities said the suspected shooter was caught about a block away from where Melton was shot. The suspect was being questioned along with a second person suspected in the initial drive-by. A third person who had been taken into custody was determined not to have been involved and was released, police said.
“There’s a lot of pain and brokenness in our community and our nation right now, and we just want to ask everyone to be prayerful and thoughtful right now,” Mayor Mark Holland of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County said.
Tuesday marked the second time this year that a Kansas City, Kan., police officer had been shot in the line of duty. Detective Brad Lancaster, 39, was shot and killed near Kansas Speedway during a violent crime spree on May 9. Melton had been part of the police honor guard at Lancaster’s funeral.
Chief Terry Zeigler tweeted news of the shooting just after 2 p.m.
Ida Ford, 87, was watching television in her two-story brick home when gunfire erupted just outside. Ford said she thought someone was knocking on her air conditioner until her son rushed downstairs and told her the three loud noises she had heard were gunshots. Ford said she looked through her window and saw the officer sprawled and unresponsive on the asphalt road in front of her home. She watched for a few minutes as paramedics worked on the officer.
“I’m just so sorry for his family,” she said.
The shooting happened after police responded to a report around 1:30 p.m. from a person who said several people in a car were firing shots. The suspect vehicle took off as police arrived, but it crashed into a fence and the occupants bailed out at 1:36 p.m., police spokesman Tom Tomasic said. Two people were taken into custody within three minutes of the wreck, he said.
About a half-hour after the initial call, Melton saw someone who matched the description of the third suspect about 20 blocks from the original scene and pulled up to them, police spokesman Tom Tomasic said. Before he could get out of his car, he was shot multiple times.
Tomasic told reporters it was too early to determine whether the shooting was linked to other attacks on police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge.
“As far as we know this started out as a crime that we were investigating, so to just say that he was shot for no reason, we don’t know that yet. We do believe that he was investigating a crime so he was out here doing his service.”
Tomasic went on to describe Melton as a “good friend, good person. [I] knew him well, worked with him everyday.”
Melton was a 17-year veteran of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department. According to his LinkedIn profile, he had also served in the Kansas Army National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan from September 2010 to March 2012
Outside the hospital where Melton died, local Baptist preacher Jimmie Banks — a friend of the city’s mayor — sat dejected on a bench, head lowered, after attending the news conference announcing the officer’s passing. He said it was painful to sit in that room and see the grief-stricken faces.
“The contributions that peace officers make to protect and serve — they deserve better,” said Banks. “When they leave home, the family expects them to return. It’s shameful this has happened.”
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