NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The suspect in the murder of slain North Kansas City police officer Daniel Vasquez admitted to the killing, telling investigators that he shot Vasquez on at least three different occasions in an interview with police after turning himself in Tuesday afternoon.
During the hours after Vasquez’s murder, Joshua Rocha, 24, surrendered and admitted to the killing at the Clay County Annex in the 1900 block of Northeast 48th Street in Kansas City, Missouri.
Rocha told police he shot and killed Vasquez “because he did not want to go to jail or have his vehicle towed,” according to a probable cause statement accompanying charges filed in Clay County Circuit Court.
Rocha was charged Wednesday with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. He will make his first court appearance Thursday and could face the death penalty under Missouri law.
After telling an employee at the annex that he “needed to turn himself in” after “I committed a murder,” Rocha was arrested and taken to KCPD headquarters for an interview.
He told investigators that he was driving to a gun shop to buy ammunition for a .300 Blackout rifle, which he had with him in the gray Ford Taurus he was driving.
As Vasquez approached Rocha’s vehicle, he moved the rifle into his lap and opened fire as soon as Vasquez reached the driver’s door and looked into the window.
Rocha then admitted to exiting the vehicle and shooting Vasquez again on the ground.
Even after the rifle malfunctioned, Rocha said he cleared the misfire, reloaded and shot Vasquez at least one more time, emptying the magazine.
Rocha said he believed he fired at least five rounds.
After fleeing the scene, Rocha shaved his goatee, changed clothes, removed the temporary tag from his vehicle and spray-painted the rear of his Ford Taurus in an effort to conceal his identity as police officers across the Kansas City area continued to search for Vasquez’s murderer.
A gun matching the description Rocha gave to officers was located inside the vehicle, which he parked at the Clay County Annex before surrendering. The KCPD Regional Crime Lab Firearms Section matched the casings found at the scene of Vasquez’s murder with the weapon found in Rocha’s vehicle.
Vasquez initiated a traffic stop around 10:40 a.m. after spotting expired tags on Rocha’s vehicle as he drove in the area of East 21st Avenue and Clay Street in North Kansas City.
The tags expired in 2018 and belonged to a Buick, but it’s unclear how Rocha came into possession of the tags. The Taurus belonged to Rocha, police said Tuesday afternoon.
Vasquez was taken to North Kansas City Hospital, where he died from his injuries.
A memorial fund has been set up for donations to Vasquez's family.
For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.