As the small Johnson County community of Fairway mourns the death of a police officer fatally wounded in a Sunday morning shootout, other Kansas City area law enforcement agencies are stepping in to help, including by taking patrol shifts.
The eight-member Fairway Police Department lost one of its own Monday with the death of Officer Jonah Oswald, employed by the agency for four years. Oswald, 29, died in the hospital after being fatally wounded during a Sunday morning exchange of gunfire involving suspects in an auto theft, one of whom was also killed, at a suburban Kansas City QuikTrip in neighboring Mission.
“It’s something that we do for each other,” Sgt. Jesse Valdez, of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, told reporters Wednesday outside the police station, where a memorial for Oswald with notes and flower arrangements has grown over the past two days.
“It’s the brotherhood and the sisterhood that we have. When they ask for help, we give them that help. And we definitely want to make sure that the city of Fairway knows that they have law enforcement here, that their tight-knit community continues to be controlled and safe.”
Valdez said other agencies providing assistance include the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas City police and Kansas City, Kansas, police.
The Johnson County deputies, Valdez said, are answering calls for service on behalf of the department and will continue to do so until the officers feel ready to go back to work. Plans were to continue doing so through at least Friday and then see from there, Valdez said, adding: “We’ll do it as long as Fairway needs us.”
Valdez added that Oswald was a “hero” whose “tragic” death has affected law enforcement across the metro area.
“For law enforcement in Johnson County, we appreciate the love and support that we’ve received so far,” he said.
Few details have been released publicly about the fatal shooting as the matter remains under investigation by the Johnson County Officer-Involved Critical Incident Investigation Team, which handles deadly use-of-force cases.
It began with a police chase led by police in Lenexa that ended at the QuikTrip at 4700 Lamar Ave. in Mission, just west of Fairway. Officers from other area departments assisted with the report of a stolen car whose driver allegedly rammed a police cruiser and fled.
Two suspects, a man and a woman, were seen running into the convenience store as officers — including Oswald — from several agencies responded to arrest them. Police have said Oswald was fatally wounded and the male suspect, identified as Shannon Wayne Marshall, 40, of Ashland City, Tennessee, was killed during an exchange of gunfire.
The female suspect, 32-year-old Andrea Rene Cothran of Goodlettsville, Tennessee, is charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer, fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer and theft. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe said Tuesday that prosecutors are evaluating the situation to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support additional charges for Cothran.
The death of Oswald was announced Monday night by Fairway Police Chief J.P. Thurlo, who called him a “a warm-hearted individual whose hard work and passion touched the lives of many.” He said Oswald was a husband and a father of two young children.
Oswald is the first Fairway police officer to be killed in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, which tracks killings of police officers around the country. He is the 727th Kansas officer to be killed in the state’s recorded history, according to the nonprofit.
Before joining Fairway police, Oswald previously worked at the Buckner Police Department. During a phone interview with The Star on Tuesday, former law enforcement partner Kaitlyn Lauritsen said Oswald had “an amazing personality.”
“He always had such a happy-go-lucky personality and truly wanted to do what he could to make a difference out there in the world and his community,” she said.
The Star’s Matti Gellman and Anna Spoerre contributed to this report.