CLAY COUNTY, Mo. (KCTV) – Family, friends and dozens of law enforcement officers packed a Clay County courtroom Thursday as his suspected killer faced a judge for his arraignment.
Police escorted Joshua T. Rocha to his arraignment hearing wearing fallen Officer Daniel Vasquez’s handcuffs. Rocha is charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action for Vasquez’s July 19 death. Vasquez was shot and killed during a traffic stop for an expired temporary tag near 21st and Clay in North Kansas City.
Law enforcement officers from around the metro stood shoulder to shoulder during the entire arraignment to support Vasquez’s family.
“First and foremost, we were here for the family,” Kansas City Missouri Police Department Investigations Bureau Deputy Chief Mike Wood said Thursday. “If this doesn’t upset you as a member of this community, you’re heartless, you’re not human. Because this is senseless. It didn’t have to happen and it shouldn’t have happened.
Rocha did not speak during his arraignment. A judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf because Rocha does not yet have an attorney. A public defender will be appointed to represent him.
The impact of Officer Vasquez’s death – the first line of duty death in the North Kansas City Police Department’s history – was evident during Wednesday night’s candlelight vigil for Vasquez and his family. A large crowd of community members filled the police department parking lot.
“I know he is in heaven looking down on us with that big cheesy smile,” Vasquez’s sister, Areli Vasquez, said. “I know Daniel loved this community and any community that he served. I don’t know how we are going to get through this.”
Several friends and coworkers spoke about Vasquez’s ability to befriend just about anyone.
“He was our Daniel,” Wanda Filger said. “I would say, ‘I’m worried about you.’ He’d say, ‘Mee-Maw, I’ve got Katie’s back. I’ve got Katie’s back.’ I just wish we had his. Our lives will just never be the same without him.”
Police say Rocha turned himself in and confessed to killing Vasquez. Rocha is held on a $2-million bond.
“Justice will be served. I feel confident in that,” Deputy Chief Wood said. “He’s where he needs to be, in my opinion, and the system will work.”
If convicted of first-degree murder, Rocha could face the death penalty or be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Rocha is expected back in court on July 28 for a bond hearing.
Funeral service information for Vasquez was announced Thursday. There will be a public visitation Tuesday, July 26, from 5-9 p.m. at the Vineyard Church at 12300 NW Arrowhead Trafficway in KCMO. The funeral services will be held on Wednesday, July 27, at 9 a.m. at Vineyard Church.
If attending the public visitation on Tuesday, July 26, or funeral services Wednesday, July 27, you must enter from U.S. 169 South.
If community members would like to show support to the Vasquez Family and North Kansas City Police Department but are unable to attend the service, there will be a procession immediately following the funeral services on Wednesday, July 27. The procession will leave from Vineyard Church at 12300 NW Arrowhead Trafficway in KCMO and proceed down U.S. 169 South to MO 9 South, to Armour Road, to I-29/35 North, to Antioch North, to 64th Street E., to White Chapel Memorial Gardens.
Parking will be restricted along Armour Road. However, parking on side streets will be permitted. A city spokesperson says viewing along Armour Road is encouraged.
City staff say members of the public should expect traffic delays if traveling in and around the venues and procession route on Wednesday July 27.
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