While working to serve community, KCK officers fight through grieving after losing one of their own

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Officers are hurt this week, but they're also working. The department has peer support groups and police chaplains available anytime an employee needs someone to talk to, especially this week as they find the balance between grief and the job.

Officer Amber Thomas said she didn't know Tuesday's office birthday lunch was the last time she'd see her friend Captain Robert "Dave" Melton, killed in a line-of-duty shooting later that afternoon. Thomas said, "He was in there cracking jokes and whatever with us, eating pizza, hanging out, then a couple hours later he's gone. It's that quick."

Two days after Melton was killed, some in his law enforcement family said the hurt hasn't fully set in yet. Thomas said, "I don't even think I've comprehended it yet. This was a man I saw every morning. Every day."

Pete Fogarty retired from the KCK Police Department as a Senior Master Patrolman after 40 years of working the Kansas City, Kansas street. He said, "We have to learn to grieve on the go if you will. You go to work and you see where they would've been, where they would've come to work and they're not there anymore."

Fogarty said often times, the grief and reality of the work they do doesn't hit an officer until later, and it's then they need help. "When situations happen, most of the time you don't even think about being afraid, you're just reacting."

Officer Thomas sensed it in her colleagues Tuesday afternoon when Melton was killed. "Listening to the guys on the call, you could hear it in their voice. You could hear that they were upset."

George Kemper volunteers as a police chaplain. He wore the uniform himself for many years and uses that experiences to help when he gets a call. "I think the community just cannot fathom the fact it happened again. You know what it entails but it doesn't mean it doesn't hurt. It doesn't mean there isn't pain."

Fogarty treated that pain through the years by opening up; something he hopes current officers will do after this week's loss. "It's going to be there for a while. They say time heals all wounds, well it doesn't heal everything."

"The feeling and the shock never go away," Thomas said.