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Sorrow But 'Sense Of Pride' At Vigil For Slain Wyandotte County Sheriff's Deputies

Andrea Tudhope
KCUR 89.3
A scene at Sunday night's vigil for slain Wyandotte County deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer.

Family and friends of the two Wyandotte County deputies who were fatally shot had the support of the community Sunday evening, as hundreds gathered in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, for an emotional vigil.

"They touched not only their family, but the community's lives. It was nice to see the community come together for them," said Nichelle Garrett, who was friends with one of the deputies.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
It was an emotional evening for many at the vigil in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Garrett spent every Thursday night with 44-year-old Theresa King for the past three years as their children took karate together. 

"The day it happened, I sent her a text, and asked ‘Are you OK?’ She usually texts right back, but I didn't receive a text back,” she said. “I had a stomach ache. It was God letting me know, ‘It's her.’"

King and 35-year-old Patrick Rohrer were shot Friday morning as they were loading two inmates into a van behind the courthouse. Both later died at the University of Kansas Hospital.  

Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kelli Bailiff has said officials believe the suspect managed to get one of the deputies’ guns and shot them with it. Police still haven’t identified or charged the suspect, who was also shot and underwent surgery Friday.

The Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department is investigating the shooting. Bailiff said over the weekend that the deputies were wearing body cameras and that there were cameras in the loading dock.

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer speaks to the crowd at Sunday's vigil outside of the Wyandotte County District Courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

The vigil featured speakers, including Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, as well as prayers, a song and a moment of silence. It was too windy to light the candles as planned, so people held up unlit candles and cellphone flashlights.

A number of law enforcement officials from other departments were at the vigil, including Randy Christenson who transfers inmates for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. It’s the same job King and Rohrer did, and he said he crossed paths with them often.

"King was a wonderful woman, always very positive. We were different agencies, but she always made a point to talk to us,” Christenson said. “Rohrer, I always saw him when dropping off in booking. Didn't talk to him as much, but every time I saw him, he always told us to be safe, and that he'd see us next time."

As for his concern about the safety of his position: "You gotta carry on. You can’t run from it. So, you just take a moment, and get back in the fight."

Credit Andrea Tudhope / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
A man plays a trumpet in front of the Wyandotte County District Courthouse after Sunday's vigil.

Greg Vickers, another law enforcement official from Johnson County, said the shooting “makes it harder” to do the job, but that “we took this job for a reason.” He also said that the crowd at the vigil was “overwhelming.”

“It gives you a sense of pride,” Vickers said.

Wyandotte County Sheriff Donald Ash read a statement to the crowd from an unnamed deputy who arrived on scene moments after the shooting.

"At some point in time, we're literally going to get this guy back in the WyCo detention center. We will feed him, and we will give him drink, and we will look after his medical needs, and we will provide for his safety,” Ash said. “And we will do our duty as appointed by God."

Friday’s fatal shooting was the fourth of Wyandotte County law enforcement in three years. A joint funeral is planned for King and Rohrer at 9 a.m. Thursday at Children’s Mercy Park.

This story has been corrected to show that the funeral is at 9 a.m. Thursday, not 1 p.m.

Andrea Tudhope is a reporter for KCUR 89.3. Email her at andreat@kcur.org, and follow her on Twitter @_tudhope

Andrea Tudhope is an award-winning multimedia journalist based in Kansas City, Missouri. She is currently coordinating producer for America Amplified, a national public media community engagement initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
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