Officer tried to keep victims quiet after cop threatened people with gun at JoCo bar

An off-duty Kansas City, Kansas, police officer who told a server at a bar in Mission, “I have my gun on me. I’ll shoot you,” returned home that night with his service weapon still in his possession.

That happened in part because a Mission police officer who responded to the scene asked those at the bar who witnessed the crime not to press charges, according to court records obtained by The Star.

Ultimately, charges were filed. The off-duty Kansas City, Kansas, officer who threatened people at the bar, Robert Ward, lost his peace officer’s license and was convicted of assault and possession of a firearm while under the influence. He was sentenced to one year of probation as part of a plea agreement.

The officer who tried to cut Ward a break no longer works for the Mission Police Department, according to Chief Ben Hadley. But the police chief won’t say if he quit or was fired, saying it’s a personnel matter.

A police report from that night identified the officer as Cpl. Peter Martin. He did not respond to The Star’s request for comment.

Martin was one of three officers called to The Peanut because employees worried that a man, later identified as Ward, was threatening them with a gun and would start shooting.

Ward had told bar employees that he was a cop, which meant he could “do whatever he wanted.” According to court records, Ward was drinking and arguing with a woman at the bar.

Martin told other officers and witnesses that he didn’t want to ruin Ward’s career.

The fact that Ward was punished, despite Martin’s efforts, is testament to the fact that cops are not above the law, according to Johnson County law enforcement officials.

“My expectation is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a police officer or not,” Hadley said. “All calls will be treated the same.”

Robert Ward
Former Kansas City, Kansas police officer Robert Ward was convicted in July of three counts of assault and one count of possession of a firearm while under the influence. Johnson County Sheriff's Office

Officer causes disturbance

The charges stemmed from an August 2018 call to The Peanut near Johnson Drive and Nall Avenue in Mission.

Ward had gotten into an argument with a woman he said was his girlfriend on the bar’s patio. After he allegedly threw his drink onto a wall and slammed his glass on the table, the woman went inside and asked management to have Ward thrown out.

Minutes later, Ward barged into the employee area of the bar and began screaming at the woman, according to witnesses.

The manager on duty attempted to block Ward and persuade him to move back to the main bar when Ward shoved him, pulled out his badge and threatened to use his service gun.

“I’m a cop. Your sign on the door (prohibiting firearms in the building) means sh*t. I’ve been carrying this the whole night and I will pull it out on you,” Ward allegedly said while shoving his badge into the bar manager’s face.

A server working that night told police she feared there would be a shooting, according to charging documents.

Peanut employees called police. A Fairway officer, as well as Martin and another Mission officer, responded to the scene.

When they arrived, Martin took Ward outside in an attempt to deescalate the situation.

Martin allegedly repeatedly told bar managers and the other officers at the scene that he “did not want to ruin the career of a police officer over a drunken mistake.”

According to charging documents, he encouraged the managers not to press charges and asked the woman if Ward could just go home.

That night, Ward was allowed to return home and was simply given a trespass warning for all The Peanut locations.

Consequences for officers

According to Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe, the other responding officers in Mission and Fairway were uncomfortable with Martin’s actions.

They reported his conduct to their superiors, leading to Ward’s eventual arrest.

“It’s a testament to how well law enforcement agencies in our county are run that they don’t tolerate that kind of information,” Howe said. “I think evidence of that is that when officers do something wrong, they do get prosecuted and they’re people like everyone else.”

Howe said that situations like this are a rarity in Johnson County, adding that a number of officers in the county look to do the right thing.

Martin is currently not employed at another Kansas law enforcement agency, but it is unknown if he is working in another state, according to Gary Steed, executive director of the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and training.

Martin still has a peace officer’s license, Steed said, but it is listed as inactive.

It is unknown whether the commission is investigating Martin’s behavior. Steed said he could not comment on specific cases.

However, if the commission does investigate Martin and determines he violated the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act, he could lose his license, have it suspended, be censured or reprimanded, according to Steed.

The act says an officer could be disciplined by the statewide agency if they engage in unprofessional conduct.

That conduct, defined in the commission’s rules and regulations, includes willfully failing to report “knowledge gained through observation that another officer engaged in conduct that would be grounds for discipline by the commission.”

Ward’s conduct was determined to be grounds for discipline last month when the commission revoked his certification.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.