Four years ago, Christopher Ryan Morton was serving in Afghanistan and sent messages back home to Missouri with a Kansas City Chiefs koozie in his hand.
On Wednesday morning, many of Morton's friends flooded his Facebook page with grieving messages as word spread that authorities had identified him as the Clinton police officer who was shot and killed while on duty Tuesday night. He's the second Clinton officer to die while on duty in seven months.
Morton, 30, joined the Clinton Police Department full-time in 2015, and started in a reserve capacity beginning in January 2017. He returned full-time in late September, six weeks after Officer Gary Michael was killed during a traffic stop. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Morton filled the post of his fallen colleague.
On Tuesday night, Morton was one of three officers shot while responding to a 911 disturbance call at a Clinton residence. Morton —known to close friends as Ryan — died at the scene; the two other officers are being treated for their injuries.
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"It was an absolute honor to know u," wrote Jordin Ashley on Facebook. "He served his country and his community... thank you for your service and being an amazing human."
In 2014, the Kansas City Royals honored Morton as a member of the military during a home game ceremony. Dressed in Royals gear, he stood in the crowd from his "Our Heroes" seat, waving and tipping his hat. On that day, Morton — an avid Royals fan — presented pitcher Jeremy Guthrie with a U.S. flag that was flown in Kandahar during his deployment.
Some who posted Wednesday morning had served with him. Morton, who was in the Army National Guard, had been twice deployed and returned in May 2014 from Afghanistan, where he served as a bridge crew member and radio communications manager.
"The world has lost a great soldier and even a better person," said Matthew Hografe, who wrote in a Facebook post he had deployed with Morton four years ago. "You will never be forgotten."
Friends posted that Morton often talked about his family and how he loved his job. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Morton "served with distinction" as a full-time Clinton police officer from Feb. 12, 2015, until Jan. 10, 2017. He remained with the department as a reserve officer until returning to full-time duty on Sept. 24, 2017.
"He was always professional, funny and took a positive outlook on this," wrote David Wilkinson on Facebook.
Greitens said in a statement that Morton took the post that had been filled by Officer Michael who was shot and killed in early August.
"Those two warriors are together now, in the company of God, who has brought his sons home," Greitens said.
Morton recorded a short video message in 2014 from Kandahar to his mom on Mother's Day.
"I want to give a special shout out to my mom. Happy Mother's Day," Morton said in the U.S. Army video. "Love you, miss you. It's been a long deployment, we'll see you soon."
In Clinton Wednesday morning, Sheryl Long said she knew of Morton.
"He was a very nice man, (who was) good at his job," she said.