‘A big family’: First responders pay respects to slain Independence police officer

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First visitations were held in Independence on Thursday evening for the city’s 22-year-old police officer shot and killed in the line of duty last week.

Dozens of U.S. flags flew on the grounds of the Community of Christ Auditorium as groups of visitors trickled in. Many of those paying respects were first responders, including police officers, emergency medical personnel and firefighters.

“We’re all a big family,” Independence Officer Jack Taylor, a police spokesman, said outside the auditorium, where ambulances, fire trucks and police motorcycles lined much of the parking lot. “We’re all here to do a job. And it just means a lot to see the other agencies come in and offer their support.”

Officer Blaize Madrid-Evans, a recent police academy graduate only 18 days into his field training program, was shot and killed Sept. 15 while responding to a residence in the 2400 block of South Northern Boulevard with his field training officer. Police were sent there after receiving a tip that a suspect, later identified as Cody L. Harrison, was inside the residence.

Jackson County authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Harrison after he failed to appear for a hearing in late August. Harrison was shot and killed by the other Independence officer, authorities have said.

Taylor said Thursday that Madrid-Evans’ death is still weighing heavily on many officers, especially those who worked on his shift. The most recent line-of-duty death for Independence police before Madrid-Evans was 20 years ago, when Officer Terry Eugene Foster, 54, was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call shortly before he was scheduled to retire.

In the days following his death, several tributes have been paid to Madrid-Evans around the Kansas City area, including in his hometown of Smithville. Madrid-Evans was a 2018 graduate of Smithville High School, where former teachers remembered him as a kindhearted young man committed to helping others.

Madrid-Evans’ family has asked for privacy during the grieving process. But in a public statement Wednesday, family thanked Independence and other area communities for “overwhelming love and emotional support during this incredibly difficult time.”

Among those attending Thursday’s visitation was Lt. Curt Ringgold of the Springfield Police Department. One of Madrid-Evans’ kidneys was recently donated to Springfield Officer Mark Priebe. Priebe was paralyzed after being struck by a vehicle outside of the police headquarters more than a year ago and recently learned his kidneys were failing.

If he had the chance, Ringgold said he would give Madrid-Evans “a great, big hug” as thanks.

The visitation Thursday was the first planned public gathering of Madrid-Evans’ services. On Friday, a ceremonial procession involving emergency vehicles will escort his body to the grave site at Mt. Washington Cemetery.

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