Police officers dedicate their lives to protecting and serving their communities. If necessary, many are even prepared to sacrifice their own lives if it means saving an innocent life or stopping a dangerous criminal.
In September 2018, a Kansas police officer lost his life after responding to a call about a dangerous man in the middle of a crime spree. However, when the community heard about the brave officer’s sacrifice, they went above and beyond to show their appreciation.
A Suspicious Man
On the afternoon of Sunday, September 30, 2018, a resident who lives 20 miles west of downtown Wichita, Kansas, noticed a suspicious looking man. According to the resident, who called 911, the man had been eyeing their pickup truck and two ATVs. The family feared the man might be looking to steal them.
The 911 Call
During the 911 call, the owner of the truck and ATVs explained that the suspect was driving a black pickup truck. When the suspicious man got back in his truck and drove off, the caller and a teenager told dispatch that they were going to follow the man. After hanging up, dispatch immediately sent officers to the scene.
The Responding Officer
At about 1:18 in the afternoon that Sunday, Deputy Robert Kunze and another deputy responded to the dispatch about a suspicious character. However, it took them more than 20 minutes to track the suspect down. Once Kunze caught up, he hoped to figure out what exactly the man was up to.
Arriving On Scene
The police officers hoped there was just a misunderstanding. However, when Kunze arrived at the scene around 1:42 p.m., he knew the man was up to no good. As he pulled up to the scene, Kunze saw the man and the hood up on the black pickup truck, which the police later learned had been stolen.
The two witnesses who originally reported the suspect had also followed the man to the scene. By the time Kunze arrived, they were parked in a car in front of the pickup truck. However, at that point, the black truck had not yet been reported stolen.
A Dangerous Crime Spree
Kunze hoped to speak to the suspect and figure out what was going on peacefully. However, as he spoke to the man, he realized he had just interrupted a crime spree. The suspect, 29-year-old Robert Greeson, had just carried out a carjacking the night before.
Interrupting The Spree
Since Greeson had been seen lurking around the ATVs, its believed that he was planning his next target. However, those plans were interrupted by Deputy Kunze, who decided to take the convicted criminal into custody. Sadly, Kunze never got the chance to do that.
A Deadly Fight
According to authorities, Deputy Kunze had found a gun in Greeson’s waistband while patting him down. He placed the gun out of reach and then continued to handcuff the suspect. At that point, however, Greeson started fighting back and managed to get ahold of the .40-caliber gun that he had stolen hours before.
Calling For Help
Greeson shot Kunze in his chest just above his protective vest. According to authorities, Kunze pushed the emergency button on his radio at 1:48 p.m. to signal he was in trouble and radioed in to say he had been shot. However, he refused to let Greeson get away.
Running Out Of Time
Kunze knew that there wasn’t time to wait for backup to arrive. If he didn’t stop Greeson, the dangerous criminal would likely kill the two witnesses who originally reported him. He would also continue on his dangerous crime spree where others would likely be harmed.
Despite the fact that he had just been shot, Kunze mustered all the strength he had left and got back up on his feet. Before collapsing, Kunze managed to shoot and kill the 29-year-old, who had an extensive criminal history including aggravated battery. Just a minute later, another deputy arrived at the scene.
According to authorities, the deputy found the two witnesses hiding behind a truck. He also found Greeson lying face down in a ditch with the stolen handgun next to him. Kunze was lying on the road on his side. Neither men were responsive.
A Lethal Shot
Kunze, who had been on the force for 12 years, received first aid at the scene and was rushed to a nearby Wichita hospital. Doctors fought to save his life, but the damage was too severe. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital.
A Sad But Proud Moment
When other officers learned that Kunze had died after responding to the call, they were devastated. However, they couldn’t help but feel proud that Kunze got up and kept fighting in order to stop Greeson. “That’s what I’m most proud of — doing what he was trained to do,” Sheriff Jeff Easter told The Wichita Eagle.
A Brave Hero
“Without a doubt in my mind, [Kunze] prevented loss of other life because of the two witnesses standing there” Easter added. “They’re witnesses to him murdering a sheriff’s deputy. … They were in grave danger if [Greeson] would have survived. Because if you’re willing to kill a law enforcement officer …. [you’ll] take the life of anybody.”
Word about the sacrifice Kunze made in order to protect his community from a dangerous criminal quickly spread. When his life was being honored at the funeral, officers from the Reno County Sheriff’s Department were amazed to see the community and law enforcement from across the state and the country came out to pay their respects.
Paying Their Respects
“We were in awe of the support of agencies from across the state and nation as the sanctuary was full of Law Enforcement Officers,” the Reno County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “This paled in comparison to how the citizens of Sedgwick County honored Deputy Kunze along his procession route. For around five miles citizens stood as the lengthy procession drove through the city. Several citizens stood with hands over their hearts or in salute to a fallen hero.”
But the community’s support didn’t end there. After the funeral, officers went to a local restaurant for a lunch in honor of Deputy Kunze. “We were a large group and there were a few other agencies who also came to Felipes to eat,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “Near the end of the meal while we were waiting on our checks the manager came to our table with an envelope that was left by another patron.”
A Gesture Of Appreciation
“Not only were our meals graciously paid for but several other groups (if not all) were also covered by this person. To whomever you are, Thank You!” the sheriff’s office said about the moving gesture of support. “Deputy Robert Kunze III, we salute you and will carry on the work you did. Rest Easy Brother.”
In addition to showing support and appreciation for Deputy Kunze and the police, the community has also rallied around the deputy’s family. So far, Rodney, Brandon, and Johnny Steven, who own the Wichita Thunder hockey team, have raised more than $50,000 for the family. To raise the money, the brothers climbed on top of the Wichita Ice Center and refused to come down until they sold $50,000 worth of tickets to the team’s opening weekend. According to the brothers, all of the sales from the tickets will be given to the fallen officer’s family and they are continuing to raise money for the family.