LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri prosecutor has announced plans to seek the death penalty against a Kansas City man charged with fatally shooting a police officer during a traffic stop.
Clay County Prosecutor Zachary Thompson said Tuesday that Joshua Rocha could qualify under Missouri law for the punishment because the July 2022 killing of North Kansas City police officer Daniel Vasquez was “wantonly vile,” the victim was a law enforcement officer and Rocha was seeking to avoid arrest, The Kansas City Star reports.
Rocha is charged with first degree murder and armed criminal action in the killing.
According to a probable cause statement, Rocha told police after his arrest that he shot the 32-year-old officer because he didn’t want to go to jail or have his vehicle towed.
Rocha told police he was on his way to buy ammunition for a rifle he had in the vehicle when he was stopped.
Vasquez’s dashcam video shows Rocha shooting the officer once in the face after partially opening the car door, then stepping out and firing two more shots at Vasquez, who was lying on the ground, according to the statement.
The prosecutor’s office has not pursued the death penalty for a defendant since 1994, about 28 years ago, Thompson said.