Independence mourns the line-of-duty death of Officer Blaize Madrid-Evans
Independence police and the community are mourning the loss of an officer in training who was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire with a man at a west-side residence midday Wednesday.
The Independence Police Department announced the death of Blaize Madrid-Evans, 22, late Wednesday night. The suspect – a convicted felon for whom the Jackson County prosecutor’s office said Thursday it had issued a warrant – was shot by an officer with Madrid-Evans and pronounced dead at the scene.
Thursday morning, a collection of flowers had started outside police headquarters, next to the memorial pillar with the engraved names of officers who have died in the line of duty. Madrid-Evans is the sixth Independence officer to die in the line of duty, and the department also this year lost a retired longtime officer still active in the reserves.
Officer in training
Madrid-Evans and another officer were dispatched to a home on Northern Boulevard just south of 23rd Street around 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. A man there – identified by the Highway Patrol as Cody L. Harrison, 33, of Gladstone – fired at them with a handgun. The second officer shot Harrison, and Madrid-Evans was rushed to a hospital, where he later died.
Independence police said Madrid-Evans, a native of Smithville, completed his six-month training at the Kansas City Regional Police Academy on July 8 and was going through IPD’s field training officer program. He worked as an EMT with AMR before going into the police academy, IPD said.
Independence Chief of Police Brad Halsey said Thursday the call had been for a residence check of a wanted subject.
The Highway Patrol is investigating the shooting, and Sgt. Andy Bell of the Highway Patrol said the length of such investigations can vary depending on complexity. The agency will present its findings to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office for a final ruling, as is common with officer-involved shootings.
“Upon that initial call, there was some kind of tip that a person may have been wanted for something,” Bell said, “and that will be investigated more thoroughly.”
Warrant for suspect
In a statement, the county prosecutor’s office said it had issued a warrant for Harrison’s arrest Sept. 13 after he failed to appear for a hearing.
According to court records, Harrison faced charges from November of second-degree burglary and stealing in Grain Valley. He had been released on his own recognizance after the court reduced it from a $6,000/10 percent bond (prosecutors had asked for $10,000).
Kansas City police had also submitted a case Sept. 7 to the prosecutor’s office. On Sept. 2, Harrison allegedly was carrying a gun, which he was prohibited to do as a convicted felon. The prosecutor’s office had that case under review for charges.
In October 2011, he pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon (shooting at or from a motor vehicle) in Clay County and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, Harrison was listed as “wanted – out of custody.” The prosecutor’s office said Harrison was on parole from that conviction.
Court records show Harrison also had previous guilty pleas of tampering with a motor vehicle in 2006 in Clay County, for which he received a one-year suspended sentence and completed probation, and drug possession in 2007 in Platte County.
Dozens of officers from Independence and nearby Kansas City police, as well as the Highway Patrol, were at and around the scene and had several streets blocked off, including a large portion of 23rd Street, one of the city's main east-west thoroughfares. Officers did not take anyone else into custody at the scene Wednesday and were not searching for any other suspects, Bell said. Officers could not provide an estimate on how many shots were fired.
Far too short
Officer Madrid-Evans' death marks the first line-of-duty fatality for IPD in 20 years, and Reserve officer John Bullard died recently from COVID-19. Previous deaths were:
• Sheriff Henry Bugler, the county jailor, June 13, 1866,
• Officer John Swearingen, Jan. 16, 1884,
• Officer George Barton, Jan. 26, 1922,
• Lt. David Kraxner, Oct. 31, 1966,
• Officer Terry Foster, March 17, 2001,
Whereas Madrid-Evans was just a couple weeks into field training, Foster had been just a couple weeks from retirement when he was fatally shot.
Madrid-Evans started with working with AMR Independence in September 2019, then left in December 2020 to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer, AMR said in a statement, and his organs will be donated.
“Blaize was with us for a short time at AMR, but he left a lasting impression on all who had the pleasure of working with him,” Operations Manager Paul Lininger said in the statement. “He was a person who wanted to dedicate his life to the service of others. His final act of organ donation is a testament to his kindness and courage.”
“Our hearts are heavy today as we mark the loss of one of our own,” Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said in a statement. “Officer Madrid-Evans died protecting our community, and that sacrifice cannot and will not be overlooked. I’d like to thank our community for the support you are showing and the many people that have reached out to ask how they can support the Independence Police Department in this dark time.”
Services for Madrid-Evens had not been announced as of Thursday afternoon. Police said donations for the officer’s family can be directed to the Independence Police Foundation at www.ipdfoundation.org. The mayor encouraged people to wear blue, display their flag and those first responders in their community for their service.
“We are a community that values our first responders,” Weir said, “and they need that love now more than ever.”