Mo. Police: 'Assault Style Rifle' Found in Car of Accused Cop Killer

July 21, 2022
A 24-year-old man turned himself into authorities and was charged with first-degree murder stemming from the fatal shooting of North Kansas City Police Officer Daniel Vasquez during a traffic stop.

By Bill Lukitsch

Source The Kansas City Star

As Kansas City police investigated the killing of a 32-year-old police officer who was shot during a traffic stop Tuesday, a detective on the case described a weapon found in the vehicle of the alleged shooter as an assault style rifle.

Court documents filed Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court say the rifle was sitting in plain view on the passenger side seat of a gray sedan belonging to Joshua T. Rocha, 24, who had just turned himself in at a Clay County government building. Rocha was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder in the death of North Kansas City Officer Daniel Vasquez.


The information filed in court papers came in the form of a probable cause statement requesting a warrant to collect DNA samples from Rocha. Authorities have said the vehicle Rocha was driving that day was also searched, though a full account of what was found was not available in court papers Wednesday.

Authorities have thus far declined to say what type of weapon they believe was used in the shooting, which was captured on Vasquez’s surveillance dashboard camera and described by the alleged shooter during a police interview.

During a news conference Wednesday, Mike Wood, a KCPD deputy chief, said authorities were unable to answer what type of weapon was believed to have been used when asked directly. He declined to provide detail beyond the fact that “a weapon” had been recovered, saying other factors — including how the weapon was obtained — were part of the ongoing investigation.

In court papers, police reported finding an American Tactical brand firearm inside Rocha’s vehicle. Shell casings found at the shooting scene were examined at the Kansas City Police Department’s Regional Crime Lab, which showed they came from the same firearm, according to court documents.

The fatal shooting of Vasquez unfolded shortly before 11 a.m. on Tuesday near the intersection of 21st Avenue and Clay Street in a largely residential area in North Kansas City. Vasquez, who joined the police force in 2021 after finishing his academy training, had pulled over a car there for an expired license plate.

Gunfire erupted in the neighborhood as Vasquez was fatally shot in the street. Vasquez was rushed to North Kansas City Hospital, where he died while being prepared to be moved to another hospital.

A statewide alert was issued seeking public help with locating a suspect until Rocha surrendered to authorities on Tuesday afternoon.

According to charging documents filed Wednesday, Rocha walked into the Clay County Annex at 1901 NE 48th St. in Kansas City a few hours after Vasquez was shot.

“I committed murder,” Rocha allegedly told an employee, who called 9-1-1.

Parked outside of the Clay County building was a gray Ford similar to the one that authorities had sent a statewide alert to find. On the passenger side of the car, in plain view, was an apparent “assault style rifle,” a Kansas City detective wrote in the search warrant application.

Rocha was arrested without incident, authorities have said. During a police interview, Rocha allegedly said he was heading to a gun shop for ammunition when he was pulled over by Vasquez. He described holding a .300 Blackout rifle in his lap in the moments before the fatal encounter.

As Vasquez approached the driver’s side, Rocha allegedly demonstrated to police how he shot the officer through the window. He then got out of the vehicle and fired at least two more shots as Vasquez lay on the ground, according to court records.

Rocha allegedly told detectives he emptied his rifle’s magazine which he believed had five rounds in it. When asked why he shot Vasquez, Rocha said he didn’t want to go to jail or have his car towed, according to court documents.

According to court documents, the shooting was captured on the dash camera of Vasquez’s police vehicle. The video shows a man wearing a dark T-shirt, shorts and black shoes, shoot Vasquez in the face through a partially opened driver side door.

The man then got out of the sedan and fired two more times at Vasquez, who was lying in the street, the charging document says.

Rocha told police he fled and attempted to alter his appearance by changing his clothes and cutting off his goatee. He also spray painted the trunk of his car and removed the temporary tag.

Rocha did not have a significant criminal history, according to Missouri court records, and did not appear to have any offenses on record that would have barred him from legally owning a firearm. Earlier offenses included traffic violations and petty drug crimes, including a misdemeanor case out of Buchanan County, records show.

Rocha was being held Wednesday on a $2 million bond in the Clay County jail. He was scheduled to make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Star’s Andrea Klick and Robert A. Cronkleton contributed to this report.


©2022 The Kansas City Star.


Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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