Community lines streets to show love, support for Independence police officer back home

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- The sidewalks surrounding Independence Police headquarters were jam packed Friday afternoon as Officer Tom Wagstaff officially came home.

Many in the community are now hoping efforts to support him and all local law enforcement don't stop.

Wagstaff was shot while responding to a robbery back in March. He's spent the past several months getting treatment in Nebraska.

Independence Police Officer Tom Wagstaff

Tracey Schmidli and Clarissa Goff were among the first to wait patiently outside the Independence Police Department for their friend and colleague to return.

"He's just a phenomenal guy and very well loved," Goff said. "Just an outgoing guy. We just love him."

"It's already emotional just to have him back," Schmidli said. "It's phenomenal."

As the motorcade rolled down Memorial Drive, hundreds of people from friends and colleagues to total strangers, cheered and continued to show their appreciation.

"Thank you Officer Wagstaff!" four-year-old Felix Diamond said.

The support for their hometown hero was unwavering.

"They risk their life every day," Amanda Bleyenberg said. "They never know when their last day is. They do so much. You have to support them."

From the moment the shooting happened in March, dozens of people rallied around Wagstaff.

One of them was Barbara Wiseman. She sold "We bleed blue" wristbands, and recently donated $5,000 in proceeds to the officer's family.

"It shows that we just have good in our country with all the bad," Wiseman said.

Wagstaff was certainly thankful of the community support.

"Ladies and gentleman, Officer Wagstaff and his family want to thank you all from the bottom of their hearts for all of your support over the last eight months, and he is excited to be home here in Independence," a police announcer said.

Wiseman was one of just a few people who got to shake Wagstaff's hand as his police cruiser rolled by Friday. She calls his recovery nothing short of a miracle.

"Overwhelming. My goal was to see that smile from the pictures they showed before he got hurt" she said. "I just always said I want to see that smile again in person, and I did."

Many at the welcoming said they're thankful Wagstaff brought the community together, and they're now even more grateful for all those who protect and serve.

"Thank you all for coming out. It's really great to be back," Wagstaff said.

The celebrations and welcome home will continue Saturday. A public recognition is set for 2 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Blue Springs.