Suspect charged with murder in shooting death of North Kansas City Police officer
The Clay County Prosecutor's office has charged Joshua Rocha with first degree murder and armed criminal action. Rocha allegedly shot and killed North Kansas City Officer Daniel Vasquez during a traffic stop Tuesday morning.
Authorities on Wednesday identified Joshua Rocha, 24, as the suspect in the killing of North Kansas City police officer Daniel Vasquez.
Rocha, a resident of Kansas City, Missouri, is charged with two felonies: murder in the first degree and armed criminal action. He is being held on a $2 million bond.
Clay County Prosecutor Daniel White says if convicted, Rocha faces life in prison or the death penalty for the murder charge, and five to 15 years for the armed criminal action charge.
“It's important to stress that the charge of a crime is not evident of a crime and the defendant is presumed innocent until he is found guilty or pleads guilty in a court of law,” White said. “To this point, we are very comfortable with the evidence we had in filing these charges. There will be further evidence, there will be other decisions to be made in regards to this case, so this is far from over, this is just the beginning.”
Authorities say Vasquez, 32, was trying to pull Rocha over at 21st and Clay Street around 10:40 a.m. Tuesday for having an expired temporary tag. Rocha allegedly got out of the car and began shooting at Vasquez before driving away.
Vasquez was brought to North Kansas City Hospital, where he died.
Police say Rocha turned himself in just before 2 p.m. Tuesday.
According to a probable cause statement, Rocha told police he was on his way to buy ammunition for his gun – a .300 Blackout rifle – which he carried in his car when he was pulled over.
Rocha told detectives, according to the court document, that when Vasquez approached his 2006 Ford Taurus’ driver-side door, he shot him, knocking Vasquez to the ground. He then said he stepped out of the car and shot Vasquez again, emptying the magazine, which he told police held five rounds.
Rocha allegedly fled the scene and attempted to disguise himself and his vehicle.
After he turned himself in, according to the court document, he told police he intentionally shot Vasquez because he did not want to go to jail or have his vehicle towed.
An arraignment hearing for Rocha has been set for Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
A memorial in North Kansas City
About two blocks away from the North Kansas City Police headquarters, a makeshift memorial sits at the base of a telephone pole facing 21st Avenue, where Vasquez was shot. Flowers and candles scatter on the ground below a photograph of the officer.
Lt. Ryan McFarlin with Titan Public Safety placed a rose by the memorial late Wednesday morning. Vasquez was a two-year member of the North Kansas City Police Department, and had worked at Titan Public Safety before then.
“He was a really good guy. Just a fantastic cop,” McFarlin said. “He was just a natural. One of the people who knew what he was doing... He was a good soul lost too soon."
North Kansas City Police Chief Kevin Freeman said it’s the first death in the line of duty for his department. On Tuesday, he described Vasquez as a “shining star” of the department.
“To see such a young person so early on in his career lose his life to such senseless violence is unfathomable,” Freeman said.
Another memorial sprung up outside the North Kansas City Police Department, where Vasquez's car sits draped with a "thin blue line" police flag and surrounded by American flags, flowers and balloons.
Clay County Sheriff Sgt. Aundre Carter was one of many citizens and local officers who came to pay their respects Wednesday.
"It’s sad,” Carter said. “We go out here and protect and serve our community knowing that this is possible. But it’s all worth it to us.”
Carter said Vasquez’s death did not deter him from doing his job.
“It makes me want to get on the streets today,” Carter said.
The Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police has set up an online portal for people who want to make contributions to Vasquez’s family.