‘Just unfathomable’: Officer shot and killed while pulling over vehicle for expired temp tags

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 10:35 AM HST
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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV/Gray News) - A Missouri police officer has died from his injuries after he was shot during a traffic stop.

On Wednesday, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office said 24-year-old Joshua Rocha has been charged in the shooting of officer Daniel Vasquez during a traffic stop Tuesday morning.

Authorities said the 32-year-old officer pulled Rocha over because of an expired temporary tag on the car when Rocha fired his weapon at him.

Vasquez was taken to a hospital following the shooting, KCTV reported. He ultimately died there from his injuries Tuesday evening.

North Kansas City Police Chief Kevin Freeman said Vasquez was a shining star for the department.

“All these are tragedies, but to see such a young person so early in his career lose his life to such senseless violence, it’s just unfathomable,” he said.

Joshua Rocha is accused of killing NKC Officer Daniel Vasquez.
Joshua Rocha is accused of killing NKC Officer Daniel Vasquez.(Clay County Jail/Chris Kamler, The Platte County Landmark)

Freeman went on to say Vasquez was a phenomenal person.

“Easy to talk to. He didn’t have an enemy. Everybody was his friend,” Freeman said. “It’s just senseless. It’s senseless all the time, but he was just a great great human being.”

Freeman said it marks the first time a North Kansas City Police Department officer has died in the line of duty.

North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong said the sad day turned further tragic at the officer’s passing.

“I know the whole North Kansas City community stands behind our police force,” he said. “We’ll be here for the family. We’ll be here for all of our other employees. Please, if you need anything, reach out.”

An online portal to donate to the officer’s family has been arranged for the public. It can be accessed here.

No further processions will be happening until Vasquez’s family has made funeral arrangements.

Peer support is being offered to North Kansas City police officers as they process the news.

“It is a tight, tight-knit community,” Freeman said. “It’s going to be a struggle for a while, for our officers to come to grips with that and be ready to still go out and do the job, but crime doesn’t stop.”

Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a Blue Alert for the suspect vehicle, which was an early-model 2000s gray Ford Taurus with the Missouri temporary license number 03GU43 that expired in 2018. The tag was previously registered for a Buick, police said.

A suspect later surrendered himself and was taken into custody, Freeman said.

The Kansas City Police Department stated that they were asked to conduct the investigation into the homicide of Vasquez.

The KCPD said that the suspect turned himself in within their jurisdiction and that he remains in custody on an investigative hold. They also said they anticipate presenting the case to the Clay County Prosecutor for consideration of applicable charges.

A witness said she felt helpless when she and her coworkers discovered someone shot a police officer near their workplace.

“I was grooming a dog,” she said. “I had my headphones on. I looked at my coworker suddenly, and her face looked like she was panicked. She told me she heard gunshots. I look outside, and the construction workers were all going to the back.”

Moments after discovering Vasquez on the ground, she said she saw another police officer arrive and begin performing CPR.

“I cannot express how excruciating this senseless death is for our organization and community,” the city of North Kansas City posted on Twitter Tuesday evening. “Daniel’s family, the NKC Police Department, and our entire community are grieving from this tragedy. Daniel served the NKC community proudly and bravely for almost two years.”

The Clay County Prosecutor’s Office announced Rocha has been charged with first degree murder and armed criminal action. His bond was set at $2 million.

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