INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- An Independence police officer shot in the line of duty is now fighting for his life. As of Wednesday evening, Officer Tom Wagstaff remained in critical condition at Centerpoint Medical Center.
Police said Officer Wagstaff was responding to a 911 call for a home burglary in progress when he was shot in the 3600 block of South Delaware Avenue.
"All of the sudden we heard all these gunshots,” said witness Tracy Crookham, “and my daughter ran into the bathroom and said, ‘Mom, something's going on out in back.’ We probably heard six to seven gunshots at first.”
Police said two burglary suspects fired the shots that injured Officer Wagstaff.
"I heard the shots,” said witness Kathryn Tempel. “I went out back to see what was going on because I thought it was a transformer exploding or something, and when I looked out, that's when I saw the police cars, many, many police cars."
Police said the suspects stole the homeowner’s car, crashed it through the garage and led other officers on a high-speed chase.
It ended in a crash off South Cedar Avenue about 3.5 miles away.
“We heard sirens,” said 16-year-old Bethany McCoy. “I got curious and walked outside and this entire portion of my street was blocked off from the end of my driveway down.”
The stolen car and a police cruiser were both wrecked, but officers still managed to arrest the two suspects.
“It’s comforting that they’re not on the street anymore,” Bethany said, “and they’re not around my house or my neighborhood, and they’re not putting anybody else in danger.”
Now the community’s focus is turning towards Officer Wagstaff as they hope and prayer for his recovery.
“It’s really sad that stuff like that happens to them because they’re out to protect you,” said Sherry Wheaton, who lives near the crash site. “They’re doing their job and it’s terrible that crooks do that.
Bethany agreed, “Thoughts and prayers for the cop and his family. I have a very high level of respect for officers who put their lives on the line every day just to keep us safe.”
Police are not yet releasing the names of the suspects. Any criminal charges filed against them are expected to be announced by Jackson County prosecutors on Thursday.