KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Friends and family are mourning the loss of a 52-year-old killed last week in a crash that also took the life of a Kansas City police officer.
It happened when a car hit a Kansas City Police Department vehicle, forcing the cruiser into the area where 52-year-old Jesse Eckes was standing.
“They lost a good person, they lost a friend, they lost a brother, they lost a confidante, they lost a person, they lost someone very special,” said Kristyna Kleban, a close friend of Eckes.
He was a man so remarkable that friends struggle to explain who Eckes was.
“We laugh, we cut up, we joke. Now he’s not there,” Kleban said. “He always made me laugh at the right given time. He always made me feel better.”
“He was always a guy trying. Even though he needed help, he was coming for services. He was just trying to be a light and joy to the people around him,” said Doug Langer, executive director of Hope Faith Ministries.
The deadly crash happened at the intersection of Truman Road and Benton Boulevard. Prosecutors allege 19-year-old Jerron Lightfoot sped through a traffic signal, hitting Officer James Muhlbauer’s police car. Eckes, Muhlbauer and his K9 Champ all died.
Lightfoot is now charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and is set to appear in court next week.
“You need to realize what you did to him. You took a life. You took an officer’s life. You took a dog’s life, and you took my brother’s,” Kleban said. “And I know you’re going to have to live with it the rest of your life.”
Eckes spent more than 4 years receiving help from those at Hope Faith Ministries. They said it’s so important that in the midst of this tragedy that he is remembered.
“But in some ways, Jesse protected us, too. He was the eyes and ears on the streets for so many people. He was a loved one. He was cared for by other people, and we just don’t want to have that forgotten in the shuffle, too,” Langner said.
Hope Faith Ministries is in the process of meeting with their staff and reaching out to the family and friends of Eckes to plan a memorial service in the coming weeks.