'He was a great human being': Colleagues laud fallen Independence officer Blaize Madrid-Evans at funeral
Before he graduated from the regional police academy and joined the Independence Police Department this summer, Blaize Madrid-Evans was a different sort of first responder.
The Smithville High School graduate worked as an emergency medical technician for nearly two years with American Medical Response (AMR), the ambulance service for Independence. After graduating from the police academy July 8, about a month after his 22nd birthday, Madrid-Evans was less than two months and 20 shifts into training with IPD when, during a Sept. 15 call to check a home for a possible wanted suspect, gunfire from a suspect's handgun cut his career – and his life – far too short.
Andrew Kahananui, a former colleague who trained Madrid-Evans when he started with AMR, lauded him as an EMT.
“He was a great human being,” Kahananui posted on social media shortly after the officer's death. “He is one of those people who restore faith in humanity. His smile coupled with his positive attitude would always put someone at ease.
“He had the ability to put others at ease by just being himself,” Kahananui continued. “This is a huge loss for Independence Police, Independence Fire, and AMR.”
Funeral services for Madrid-Evans took place Friday morning at Community of Christ Auditorium in Independence, to accommodate the anticipated large crowd. Visitation had been there Thursday evening.
Following Friday's funeral, the vehicle procession went east from the Auditorium to pass by Independence Police Department headquarters. A helicopter flyover accompanied graveside services at Mt. Washington Cemetery.
Instead of a hearse, an ambulance transported Madrid-Evans' body to the Auditorium, and then to the cemetery. The No. 322 ambulance, draped in black cloths, was the vehicle he used when he started as an EMT.
“He will take his last ride in that truck, as well,” Kahananui said.
'Great big hug'
Representatives from multiple first responder agencies around the metro area and Midwest journeyed to the Auditorium to pay their respects for Madrid-Evans and show support, as is customary. Also represented was the Springfield, Missouri police department, from which Lt. Curt Ringgold was part of the honor guard for services.
Officer Madrid-Evans' story took a whole extra layer soon after his death, as he was an organ donor, and one of his kidneys went to a Springfield police officer who was paralyzed from a line-of-duty injury in June 2020 and a year later required kidney replacement. The surgery for Officer Mark Priebe took place Saturday, after his family learned Madrid-Evans' kidney was a match and he would receive it.
To be part of the honor guard under such unique circumstances, Ringgold said Thursday, is “something very special.”
“To come up here and support one another is a good feeling,” he said, and if he had to chance to meet Madrid-Evans, he would give a big thank you, “and probably a big hug, a great big hug.”
Priebe's wife Heather said she had heard of Madrid-Evans' death, and because friends in both Springfield and Independence knew the other's situation, the possible and confirmed organ match came together quickly.
“We were told the situation and literally left speechless,” Heather told The Examiner about learning of the donor match.
“We are still emotional from this whole situation, as you can imagine, and this is part of our journey that you cannot make up,” she said earlier in a release. “Mark has once again been given a second chance, thanks to a member of our thin blue line family. We hope we have the opportunity to meet Officer Madrid-Evans’ family in the near future, and we pray for them as they navigate through the days ahead.”
In a message earlier in the week released through Independence police, Madrid-Evans' family thanked Independence and surrounding communities “for their overwhelming love and emotional support during this incredibly difficult time.”
Knowing of his kidney donation to a fellow officer, they said, “brings us an incredible level of comfort and peace. Also knowing many other lives are being impacted by his decision to be an organ donor helps as well.”
Sixth LOD deaths
Officer Madrid-Evans' death marks the first line-of-duty fatality for IPD in 20 years, and retired 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