Uniformed officers wheeled two caskets into the middle of Children’s Mercy Park on Thursday, surrounded by flags, bouquets of flowers and bagpipe music.
In front of each casket sat a grieving family, collectively mourning slain Wyandotte County sheriff’s deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer, who were killed in a shooting last Friday while transporting a prisoner in downtown Kansas City, Kan.
Speaking to the assembled crowd of loved ones, law enforcement officers from around the country and members of the public, Sheriff Don Ash praised the deputies, reminding everyone of the debt owed to them.
“Thank you just isn’t good enough but it’s the best we can do,” Ash said. “I know some of you will remember our brother and sister but that’s not enough. I want you to honor them.”
Much of what followed struck a sadly familiar chord for many of those gathered for the public funeral. King and Rohrer were the third and fourth Wyandotte County law enforcement officers to die in the line of duty since 2016. Ceremonies for all four have been held in the soccer stadium and followed procedures — the military honors, the flyover, the motorcade — written by Kansas City, Kan., Police Capt. Robert “Dave” Melton. He was killed in the line of duty shortly after designing the funeral protocols.
Attending the funeral were hundreds of police officers from all over Kansas, Missouri and beyond — including some from Minnesota, Ohio and New York.
They came to honor the two deputies, who were fatally shot about 11:15 a.m. last Friday while transporting prisoners from a court hearing in downtown Kansas City, Kan., back to the jail just across the street.
At the funeral Thursday, friends and family members spoke about the ultimate sacrifices made by King and Rohrer and also about their lives as parents, co-workers and public servants.
King, who often went by “TK,” had been about to start a new job in August as a school resource officer in her youngest daughter’s school. The 44-year-old single mother of three was a 13-year veteran on the force and was well liked around the courthouse.
King was particularly close to Melton and Detective Brad Lancaster, the two members of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department killed in the line of duty in 2016.
Speaking to the crowd at Children’s Mercy Park, her daughter Bailey King talked about the 80-hour weeks her mother worked to take care of her children.
As a deputy, Theresa King was a “mother hen” to everyone at work — including the inmates, her daughter said.
“Everything you did, you did for us,” Bailey King said. “You have always been a hero and now the whole world knows it.”
Those speaking of Rohrer, a 35-year-old husband and father of two young children, remembered an imaginative young man who became a dedicated deputy but never lost his sense of fun. They peppered their recollections with Rohrer’s favorite “Star Wars” quotes.
If Rohrer were there, one friend remarked, he might say say: “Anger, fear and aggression will only lead us to the dark side.” Or: “The Force is always with us.”
Mingling with police officers in dress uniform outside the funeral Thursday were some of Rohrer’s friends from Comic Con, in costume as Ghostbusters, “Star Wars” storm troopers and Super Girl, among others. Rohrer often visited patients at Children’s Mercy Hospital dressed as a superhero.
Aside from his interest in superheroes and sci-fi, Rohrer lived life with a competitive spirit, his friends said. He had been a varsity letterman on the swim team at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School. His family’s motto became “Keep On Swimming.”
“His sense of duty was a torch that burned inside of him and was taken away too soon,” said Rob Richardson, a friend from Boy Scouts.
What exactly happened in the shooting that killed King and Rohrer remains under investigation by the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department.
The deputies were transporting two prisoners from the Wyandotte County Correctional and Court Services building when the shooting broke out in a secured parking area.
Police have said they think one of the prisoners, 30-year-old Antoine Fielder, took a gun from one of the deputies and shot them both. Fielder also was shot and injured. Authorities have said charges against him are forthcoming.
Sheriff Ash spoke about the dangers of law enforcement and the special role of his deputies as peacemakers.
“Theresa and Patrick are true heroes in every sense of the word,” he said. “And we are here to not only pay our respects to their surviving family members but we truly honor their public service and sacrifice. Theresa and Patrick put their lives between a cold-blooded killer and the citizens they swore an oath to protect.”
Listen to the final radio call for Wyandotte County Sheriff deputies King and Rohrer
Deputy Max Sybrant, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 40, choked up as he recounted the distress call that went out over the radio when King and Rohrer were shot.
It’s a call no officer wants to hear, Sybrant said: “Officer down.”
“They fought,” he said. “And they continued to fight until they could fight no longer, because that is what they were called to do.”
When the deputies were overcome, help was on the way. Running to the scene, he remembered, were all their fellow officers — their friends or, in a way, their family.
“We’re all one big family,” Sybrant said.
Among the many lessons remembered at the funeral, one was summed up by Chaplain Therese Bangert, who talked about the shared responsibility between law enforcement and the public.
“Keeping the community safe is not just the job of the sheriff or the deputies,” or other law enforcement, she said. “I believe every one of us has a duty to do our part.”
Minutes later, dozens of funeral participants stationed around the stadium moved into action to fulfill their roles in the ceremony.
Officers took the flags from the caskets and folded them. The gunners sounded off the 21-gun salute. A bugler played taps.
A helicopter flew over the stadium, the bagpipes played again, and the pallbearers took the caskets out.
As the procession of vehicles headed to one of the funeral homes and passed by onlookers gathered at City Hall, the clouds broke and rain poured down.
The crowed ignored the weather and stood in the rain, watching as the deputies were taken away.