Hours after Aiza Evans discovered her childhood friend was the police officer killed in Clinton, Mo., on Tuesday night, someone sent her a story that detailed the scanner traffic from the shootout.
She got through half of it and couldn't take any more. It was too much to comprehend how her friend, Officer Ryan Morton, lay dying as he told dispatchers that he had been hit multiple times — in the chest, left arm and both legs.
"He knew there were dangers, but he was just very patriotic, very brave," Evans told The Star. "He was a true American, honestly."
Morton, 30, was one of three Clinton police officers shot after being dispatched to a local residence on a 911 call. It wasn't discovered until later that there was a mix-up and the call had actually come from Windsor, Mo., a town about 20 miles away. Not the Clinton home at 306 W. Grandriver St.
Authorities say they do not know if it was a computer error or a human one that sent the officers to the wrong address.
Friends of Morton say they're shattered at the loss of a man who served his country in two tours overseas and his community as a selfless, proactive police officer.
Morton joined the Clinton force in 2015 but left in late 2016 to take a job as a security officer at the Veterans Affairs Police Department in Kansas City. He ended up back with Clinton, though, because friends said he felt he was called to do so.
In August, Clinton Officer Gary Michael was gunned down during a traffic stop. Soon after Morton heard about Michael being killed, he headed to Clinton where he was still a reserve officer. Morton joined in the manhunt for Michael's killer.
Six weeks later, Morton was back in Clinton full time, taking over Michael's post.
"He truly appreciated the opportunity to work with veterans but felt that Clinton's need was greater," the Kansas City VA said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
Friends say Morton told them that he felt Clinton officers needed him. And he wanted to help them heal after Michael's death.
Chris Hinote, a longtime friend, said the officer's death in August truly affected Morton.
"Right after that happened, he came over and sat on my porch and told me all about it," Hinote said Thursday in a phone call from overseas, where he is serving with the Air Force Reserve. "That was a family unit to him, a tight-knit group of folks. He went back, even though he was taking a pay cut, because that was his family that got attacked."
On Tuesday night — seven months to the day after his colleague was gunned down during a traffic stop — Morton, 30, was the first to enter the Clinton home. Soon after, the gunfire erupted.
The other two officers who suffered gunshot wounds did not sustain life-threatening injuries. The alleged suspect, James E. Waters, died after a lengthy exchange of gunfire with police.
Morton's service in the Missouri Army National Guard began in July 2005. Though his father was in the Air Force, the young Morton opted for the Army. Hinote said that decision made sense for his friend.
"He never did tell me why," Hinote said. "But Air Force, we’re a little more businesslike, and Army is down in the dirt and gung-ho, outside the wire. I think he gravitated toward the adventure piece of it."
Morton served as a combat engineer with the 110th Manuever Enhancement Brigade in Kansas City and bridge crew member with the 1438th Multi-Role Bridge Company in Macon, Mo. His service included two overseas deployments, one to Kosovo in 2008-2009 and another to Afghanistan in 2013-2014.
"He was proud of what he did and why he did it," said Tim Jackson, one of Morton's close friends since the two were teenagers. "He wore it on his sleeve."
As a high schooler, Morton was known to be "always swinging from vines in the creeks and crazy stuff like that," said Hinote, who worked with Morton's church youth group when Morton was a teenager.
When news spread Wednesday that Morton was the officer killed in Clinton, dozens posted on the veteran's Facebook page. Some shared photos and personal memories.
To close friends, Morton was also known for his strong faith. Not the Bible-pushing type, but the one who treated everyone the same, no matter their background and social status.
In high school, when most teens would have been thinking about themselves and having fun, Morton was more giving. Hinote remembers a youth group trip to Indiana when Morton caught his eye. The teen spent some of his time not focused on himself, but on helping a homeless man.
"People put the Jesus picture on a nice painting on a wall and look at him," Hinote said. "But few people get out and get dirty and hang out with the quote unquote people that you’re not supposed to hang out with.
"(Morton) lived it out loud out in the world."