The moment before he was shot and killed outside his Westport apartment, Zach Pearce was doing what he promised his parents he’d do in the face of another gunman.
Zach was the calm one, his father, Joe Pearce, said Tuesday. The gunman was “freaking out,” he said, according to the surviving friend who was with Zach during the fatal Sunday night robbery.
Zach and his friend gave up their wallets and their cell phones. Zach was the one telling the gunman, who’d jumped out of an SUV that pulled over to them on the sidewalk, to take it easy. They’d do what he wanted.
This was the nightmare Joe and Cora Pearce feared when they “begged” their 24-year-old son to move back from Westport to their home in Blue Springs.
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They had a room ready for him. But he loved the city, Joe Pearce said. Even after he’d been robbed two times, he wasn’t fazed.
“It’ll be OK,” Zach Pearce told his parents. “I’m smart enough to know to give them what they want.”
This time, for some reason, the robber fired and left Zach dying in his friend’s arms, Joe Pearce said.
“The darkness was more powerful than his light,” the father said. “Because he was the light of the world.”
He wishes now that the man who pulled the trigger, and the woman driving and the other man in the SUV, could see what happened through his eyes.
The call from the police came at 3:30 a.m. Monday. Stunned and awake, Joe Pearce watched the early news broadcasts and saw the front of his son’s apartment in the lights. He saw the reflected water on the pavement that was wet, he knew, because it had to be hosed down.
He was the younger of the Pearces’ two sons.
“I wish they could learn what it feels like to be a parent,” he said.
Do they know the pain that will keep tearing up their hearts? Like Monday night, when the parents were getting things from their son’s apartment and Joe Pearce picked up his son’s T-shirt.
It was the shirt he wore at the family’s climbing inflatables business in Blue Springs, the Giggles-N-Jiggles Family Fun Center. The scent of a hard day’s work swept over him — his son’s scent.
“I’ll never smell that again,” he said. “I’ll never see that again. I’ll never feel that again.”
Joe Pearce was speaking from just inside the sunlit entry to the business, some 36 hours after Zach had died.
The son had been here just hours before he was killed. He’d run the show for a family’s birthday party Sunday night. A parent at the party had told Joe Pearce what a wonderful job his son had done, how it felt “like home.”
Zach had closed up, gone home and went out to eat and have a couple of beers with his friend, and then was walking home.
Zach was killed 10 steps from his front steps.
Joe Pearce is a veteran — having served four years in the U.S. Marines and four in the U.S. Army Reserve.
“I was ready to fight for freedom so Zach could walk down the street and feel safe,” he said.
Many friends have responded with what the father called an overwhelming outpouring of grief, including a Monday night vigil in front of his apartment.
They know his character, he said. They know how two years ago their son grew his hair into long golden waves and then cut and donated the locks for the wigs given to people fighting cancer.
Zach was the liberal voice to counter his parents’ conservativism, Joe Pearce said.
“He was opinionated and driven,” he said. “He loved to push the limits. He was brilliant. I am going to miss the debate.”
Police are looking for help investigating the case. They have asked witnesses to come forward, and they are asking property owners around the scene in the 100 block of East 40th Street to let police know if they have any outdoor surveillance cameras that might have picked up clues.
They want people with any possible information to contact the Kansas City police homicide unit, 816-234-5043, or the TIPS Hotline, 816-474-TIPS (8477).