A veteran Kansas City, Kan., police captain was shot and killed Tuesday afternoon during a confrontation that followed a reported drive-by shooting and a police chase.
Capt. Robert Melton was shot about 2 p.m. at 22nd Street and Haskell Avenue in Kansas City, Kan. Two people were in custody, police said.
Emergency medical crews performed CPR on Melton on the way to the University of Kansas Hospital but he had no blood pressure or heart beat when he arrived at 2:22 p.m.
“Despite our best efforts, the officer was pronounced (dead) at 2:55 p.m.,” said trauma surgeon James Howard at a press conference at the hospital.
Melton was 46 years old and had served a quarter-century in law enforcement. A veteran of the Kansas Army National Guard, he served in Afghanistan.
It is the second time in less than three months that a Kansas City, Kan., police officer was shot and killed. Detective Brad Lancaster, 39, a nine-year veteran of the department, was killed May 9.
Melton’s shooting also comes in the wake of recent multiple shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., which occurred in the context of police shootings of black men in incidents across the country. The death pushes the number of law enforcement officers fatally shot in the line of duty to 31 so far this year — up from about 16 at this point last year, and ahead of the average midyear total, which is about 25, according to FBI data.
The numbers have spiked considerably just in recent days, with more than a third of these deaths coming in a single 12-day span.
But Mark Holland, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., cautioned at a brief news conference at the hospital Tuesday that the community should not draw premature conclusions about Melton’s killing.
“We’re aware that this is not happening in a microcosm,” Holland said. “But we just want to encourage everyone not to jump to conclusions about what happened today. We need to do a thorough investigation and we need to get the facts before we make assumptions about what may or may not have happened.”
Tuesday’s incident began with a report of a drive-by shooting about 1:30 p.m. at Second Street and Edgerton Driver near downtown Kansas City, Kan. at the Juniper Gardens public housing complex.
When police arrived, a vehicle containing the suspected shooter or shooters took off and there was a chase that ended near 22nd Street and Haskell Avenue about 3 miles away.
“As Capt. Melton was arriving the suspects fell from the vehicle and opened fire, striking Capt. Melton and fatally wounding him,” Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Terry Zeigler, also speaking at the press conference, said. “I don’t have any more details than that and it may change as we work our way through this investigation.”
Melton reportedly was shot in the head but neither Zeigler nor Holland would take questions. Another briefing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.
“Right now we just need to be in prayer for (Melton’s) family and for our police department,” Holland said. “Not only in this department but everywhere in our country. And prayer for our communities. Our communities are broken right now.
“My encouragement is we not go down a path of fear and conclusions and hatred, but we go down a path of thoughtful, prayerful reflection about what we can all do to make our communities safer.”
Melton worked for the police department’s bureau of operations, a position he held since May 2015, according to his LinkedIn profile. He managed staffing and personnel in that role.
Prior to becoming captain, Melton held the rank of sergeant since 2006. He had been a patrol officer in Kansas City, Kan., from 1999 to 2006 following a nine-year career as a police lieutenant for the Wyandotte County sheriff’s department.
He served in the Kansas Army National Guard and was deployed with a tank squadron to Afghanistan from Sept 2010 to March 2012.
Melton was a member of the honor guard at Detective Lancaster’s funeral in May.
At the University of Kansas Hospital Tuesday, officers filed in and out of the emergency room doors, most in uniform and some in street clothes. One officer wiped tears from her face as she returned to her patrol car.
Friends of Melton began changing their Facebook profile photos Tuesday afternoon to a police badge with a black stripe over it.
Lansing resident Brionna Cline and her daughter took flowers to police headquarters. With all the police deaths recently, she needed to do something, she said.
“I just wanted to show my support,” she said.
Ronnie Padilla grew up in the neighborhood where the shooting happened and his parents still live there. He said Tuesday that Melton’s death was sad and shocked him.
“We should be different, not answer with violence, you know?” he said.
Statements of condolence poured in Tuesday.
“Serving his community, Captain Melton today made the ultimate sacrifice laying down his life in the line of duty,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. “Kansans everywhere mourn his loss, grieve with his family, and pray for his fellow brothers and sisters in blue. Every day they risk their lives to protect ours and we are grateful for their service.”
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer urged all Kansans to pray for unity and healing.
Melton was an alum of Kansas City Kansas Community College and President Dr. Doris Givens issued a statement.
“We were terribly saddened to hear of the death of Captain Melton,” she said. “Our sincere condolences and prayers go out to his family, friends and fellow officers.”
Word about the shooting began spreading at 2:02 p.m.: Kansas City, Kan., Police Chief Terry Zeigler tweeted, “We have an officer shot at 22nd & Haskell. Start prayers, unknown condition.”
About 30 minutes earlier police received a call about an armed disturbance at an apartment complex, Juniper Gardens, at Second Street and Edgerton Drive. The caller told police that several people in a car were firing shots at them.
Officers arrived within minutes. At that time, three or four people bailed from the car.
An officer took one person into custody near there.
Shortly before 2 p.m., an officer tried to stop another person. Multiple shots were fired and Melton was hit. Police were told that an officer was down at 1:58 p.m.
Police blocked off Haskell Avenue where Melton was shot between 18th Street and 24th Street in their search, and one suspect was arrested in the area. It was unclear when and where police arrested the second suspect.
Police swarmed the area with dozens of officers, some with rifles. Several police were taking cover behind cars at 16th Street and Quindaro Boulevard. A woman came out of a home there with her hands up. Several officers were seen crouching in the street behind a police car with their guns drawn toward the home.
The woman who came out walked up to an officer who was holding a ballistic shield. She stood and talked with the officers. Then she walked away from the officers about 10 feet away toward the home and appeared to be yelling to someone in the house. She told police an 8-year-old and 3-year-old were in the home.
About 30 minutes later, two small children came out of the house and went to the woman. Police moved them out of the way.
About 3:08, a SWAT team shielded by ballistic shields approached and entered the house. About 3:34 p.m. the officers left the house without anyone in custody. A vehicle was towed from the scene.
Many in the Juniper Gardens neighborhood said they work nights, and slept through the afternoon to wake up and find their streets blocked off as a crime scene. Late Tuesday afternoon, a dozen law enforcement officers combed the neighborhood identifying and finding bullet casings and other evidence from the disturbance earlier that day.
Tuesday evening police said they were not looking for more suspects “at this time.”
In May, Curtis Ayers, 29, of Tonganoxie shot Lancaster near the Kansas Speedway as he assisted other officers called to the area after Ayers was seen looking into vehicles outside nearby Hollywood Casino.
After Lancaster was shot, Ayers allegedly fled in the detective’s unmarked police car. He then allegedly carjacked a woman’s vehicle and stole another man’s car in Tonganoxie.
Later that afternoon he allegedly shot a woman in Kansas City in another alleged carjacking attempt.
Ayers was charged with capital murder in Lancaster’s slaying. He also faces several other felony charges related to crimes that occurred the day that Lancaster was fatally shot.
The Star’s Robert A. Cronkleton, Katy Bergen, Glenn E. Rice, Will Schmitt, Jill Toyoshiba, Donna McGuire and Steve Vockrodt contributed to this report.
About 1:30 p.m., police received reports of a drive-by-shooting near Second Street and Edgerton Drive in the Juniper Gardens public housing near downtown Kansas City, Kan.
When police arrived, a vehicle sped away and police pursued the car.
About 1:37 p.m., the chase ended near 22nd Street and Haskell Avenue. At that time, three or four people bailed from the vehicle.
About 1:39 p.m, an officer took one person into custody.
About 2 p.m., Capt. Robert Melton arrived at the scene to assist officers. He encountered one of the people, who started shooting at him. Melton was struck by one of the rounds.
At 2:15 p.m., the hospital received notification that an officer was involved in a shooting.
At 2:22 p.m. the officer arrived at the hospital. The ambulance crew had been doing CPR and the officer didn’t have any blood pressure or heart rate.
At 2:55 p.m., Melton was pronounced dead.