One Wyandotte County sheriff's deputy has died and another is in critical condition at the University of Kansas Hospital after both were shot Friday morning as they transported an inmate for a hearing at the Wyandotte County Correctional and Court Services building.
Officials described a terrifying scenario in which a suspect may have obtained a gun from the deputies and shot them as they got the suspect out of the van and prepared to bring the suspect into the court services building.
"When they pulled into the parking lot ready to transport these inmates they (the deputies) were overcome," said Wyandotte County sheriff's spokeswoman Kelli Bailiff during an afternoon press conference at the University of Kansas Hospital. "It is very possible that with their own firearm they were shot."
Patrick Rohrer, 35, was the slain deputy. He had seven years of service. He died of his injuries at the University of Kansas Hospital.
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The identity of a female deputy who had been shot was not disclosed. She was in critical condition.
An unidentified suspect also was shot and transported to a hospital. The suspect's condition was unknown.
Police were first called at 11:17 a.m. Several blocks in downtown KCK were then blocked off by police.
The shooting happened in a gated portion of the back parking lot of the court services building. The Wyandotte County Correction and Court Services building, which is immediately north of the Wyandotte County Courthouse, is used for juvenile courts, community corrections and also has two criminal courtrooms.
It's a brick building that was previously the federal courthouse in KCK before the Robert J. Dole U.S. Courthouse at 500 State Ave. opened in 1994.
The Kansas City, Kan., Police Department is investigating the incident.
"There are witnesses we are speaking with," said Zac Blair, a spokesman for the KCK police. "This is a courthouse building, there is video. We will be looking at that video."
Terry Zeigler, chief of the KCKPD, said that the shooting occurred while the deputies were transporting the inmate from the jail, which is across the street to the south.
Bailiff described the standard protocol for transporting inmates: She said there are usually two deputies who pick up inmates, most of whom are handcuffed and shackled, from the jail across the street. The van then drives the inmates across the street and into a parking lot.
The parking lot has a gated area that is locked, Bailiff said, and inmates then get out of the van and are taken into the courthouse.
"We do believe it was in the parking lot," she said. "But they had not entered the courthouse."
Blair said police were not looking for any other suspects.
"This incident is contained at those three people," Blair said.
Witness John Garcia described a scary situation for people attending hearings at the courthouse annex building Friday morning at 7th Street Trafficway and Ann Avenue.
Garcia said he was just leaving the building after a custody hearing when he heard the sound of two shots fired. He said he and a few other people were quickly herded back into the building and into a courtroom.
He looked out the window and saw three people on the ground with what looked like gunshot wounds, in a parking lot behind the building.
"I was in a panic," he said. "My stomach was in knots.
"They were there at the courthouse. You know, you're at one of the safest places where you can be," Garcia said. "And, you know, this occurred right outside the courthouse, where there's, you know, multiple police around."
Garcia said he and others were kept in the courtroom for a while and finally allowed to leave out the front door.
David Alvey, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., said "it's a tragic day."
"All I really want to say is to thank officers and emergency personnel who put their lives on the line each day," Alvey told The Star. "And we should all be very grateful and respectful of those individuals and their families."
Many law enforcement agencies around the Kansas City metro area have been tweeting words of support and prayers for Wyandotte County.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sisters in Wyandotte County. We are standing with you," posted the Johnson County, Kan., Sheriff's Department.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer was briefed on the incident as he arrived at Children's Mercy Park for a congressional forum hosted by the Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce after the shooting occurred. He offered a moment of silence for the deputies after he finished his speech.
"I was deeply saddened to learn of the tragic shooting of two sheriff’s deputies outside the Wyandotte County Courthouse earlier this morning," Colyer said in a statement. "Our law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each and every day to protect the public and their selfless service deserves our highest honor."
"Unfortunately, this isn't the first time we have had to deal with this," Blair said. "They're doing their jobs."
This is the fourth incident in which Wyandotte County law enforcement personnel have been shot in the last three years.
Kansas City, Kan., police Detective Brad Lancaster was shot and killed in May 2016 after police began a pursuit of a Tonganoxie man near the Kansas Speedway and ended in Kansas City near Bannister Road and Bruce R. Watkins Drive.
In July 2016, KCK police Capt. Robert Melton was shot and killed as police were responding to a drive-by shooting and subsequent police chase.
In 2015, a Wyandotte County sheriff's Officer Scott Wood was shot at a convenience store, but survived the attack.
The Star's Katie Bernard, Bryan Lowry and Conner Mitchell contributed to this story.