When Zach Mallory's mother first relayed Officer Thomas Wagstaff's name to him late Wednesday, it didn't register.
A little reminder, and then the news that led to her call, quickly triggered his memory.
When Mallory, a 2015 Van Horn High School graduate, threatened to commit suicide during his sophomore year, it was Wagstaff who calmed him down and defused the situation.
“She called me right after the news (when his name was released),” said Mallory, now 20 years old and an LGBTQ, mental health and suicide prevention advocate. “I saw the picture and I remembered. I remembered every single part of the conversation, felt like my heart stopped for a second.”
Now, Wagstaff is at a hospital in critical condition after he was shot in the head during a police response to a burglary and home invasion call. Four suspects have been arrested and charged in the case – two who allegedly forced their way into the house and fled in a stolen vehicle when police surrounded the house, during which the shooting happened – and two who allegedly drove the suspects to the western Independence neighborhood.
Unfortunately, when Mallory threatened suicide that one day his sophomore year, it wasn't the first time he tried, and police had been to his house before.
Mallory had come out as gay the year before, and bullying and depression had been major issues.
“I went into this whole rampage, and my parents called 911. He happened to be the first on the scene,” Mallory said of Wagstaff.
“He was really comforting and talked me down. He took the time to understand what I was going through. He was really inspirational and encouraging, I told him I didn't expect that. I really appreciate that.
“He was there and saved my life, and now he's fighting for his.”
Mallory, who now divides his time between Independence and Minneapolis for his work, said Wagstaff also was comforting toward his mother, and that particular experience changed his viewpoint of police, whom he largely perceived to be close-minded and not very understanding toward certain people. Far more often than not, he said he understands now, “It's a good officer.”
“It was kind of eye-opening,” he said. “Now, I'm doing a heck of a lot better.
“I try to remember those positive moments and block out the negative.”
Among the numerous fundraisers that have taken place, or will take place, to assist the Wagstaff family through the Answering the Call Fund:
• Valley Speedway took in donations during its season-opening race night Saturday. Racetrack owner Dennis Shrout, whose nephew Josh has been an officer alongside Wagstaff for Independence police, said the track took in about $1,900 in donations. Shrout said his son is a Blue Springs officer and another nephew is a member of the Raytown department.
• Epic Coffee, 19260 E. 50th Terrace, Independence, is donating 10 percent of all proceeds this month, including tips, to the Wagstaff fund.
• From 12-4 p.m. Sunday at Blue Springs High School, Blue Springs Police Officer Keegan Hughes will run a full marathon in police uniform to raise funds. Hughes will run 105 laps (26.2 miles) around the high school track. The event is open to the public and will include music and refreshments from Cosentino's Price Chopper. Financial donations will be accepted. Blue Springs officers participating will be volunteering their time.