A Kansas City, Kansas, police captain who was fatally shot while responding to a report of gunfire Tuesday was not ambushed but was killed by a person who didn’t want to be arrested, police chief said Wednesday.
The fatal shooting of Capt. Robert Melton occurred in the wake of deadly ambushes of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in recent weeks.
"This incident involved a suspect who had committed a violent crime in our community, and murdered Capt. Melton as a result of trying to avoid being apprehended,” Kansas City, Kansas Police Chief Terry Zeigler said at a news conference.
Police were called on a report of shots fired from a vehicle at around 1:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. ET) and once the car was found one of the people inside bailed out, Zeigler said. No one was hit by the gunfire.
At around 1:58 p.m. CT, Melton, 46, and another officer saw the person who fled and Melton tried cut him off with his police car, but the suspect pulled out a gun and opened fire, shooting through the passenger’s side window, the police chief said.
Melton was shot several times and died at a hospital just before 3 p.m., Zeigler said.
Police have two people in custody and are not looking for any other suspects, Zeigler said.
They two suspects have not been identified, but were described by Zeigler as “18, 20 years old, young men.” Charges were pending.
Patrol officers go out in two-person cars, but the policy does not apply command staff and Melton was in the car alone. He was wearing a bullet-resistant vest, Ziegler said.
Melton was a 17-year veteran of the police department. Zeigler said he was a military veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Bronze Star. "His philosophy was lead from the front, and he was an excellent example of the men and women that worked for him," Zeigler said.
Melton is the second Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department officer killed in the line of duty this year. Police Det. Brad Lancaster was shot and killed while responding to a call of a suspicious person in May.
While the shooting was not a planned attack, Zeigler Wednesday referenced the heightened tensions amid the recent fatal police shootings of African American men elsewhere.
"This crime does not fit the national narrative of planned attacks against law enforcement officers but it does fit the narrative when it comes to the fact that words matter," he said. "The hate and anti-police speech has got to stop because the consequences are real."
The department had just on Monday instituted new minimum staffing rules so officers would not go out alone, Zeigler said. He said police would look at training on how officers approach suspects from cars.