Deputy Robert Kunze III, a Milton resident, was well known in western Sedgwick County
By Travis Mounts
Local law enforcement and area residents were stunned by Sunday’s killing of Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Kunze III, who died in the line of duty while making an arrest.
Kunze, a 12-year veteran with the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office and an 18-year law enforcement officer, was killed while on a call at 295th Street West and 21st Street North in western Sedgwick County, about 3.5 miles north of Garden Plain. He was responding to a call about a suspicious character.
Kunze, 41, grew up in Rose Hill but lived with his family in the Milton area, just on the Sumner County side of the Sedgwick-Sumner county line.
A deadly encounter
At a Sunday night news briefing, Sedgwick County Sheriff Jeff Easter provided details of what happened Sunday.
At 1:18 p.m., Kunze and another deputy were dispatched to a suspicious character call in western Sedgwick County. Two citizens called in about a person in a black truck who was looking around a pickup and two ATV-style vehicles on their property. The suspect left the scene, and the citizens followed.
At 1:42 p.m., Kunze was traveling west on 21st Street when he came upon the reported black truck, which was stopped on the side of the road with its hood up. Another black vehicle, driven by the citizens who made the suspicious character call, was parked in front. Deputy Kunze stopped behind the other vehicles.
Kunze discovered a handgun in the suspect’s waistband. Kunze placed the gun away from the suspect and went to arrest him. According to witness information, a fight ensued, and that’s when both Kunze and the suspect were shot. The two witnesses provided details to the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office.
At 1:48 p.m., Kunze pushed his emergency button to alert dispatch to trouble. He told a dispatcher that he had been shot.
At 1:49 p.m., a second deputy arrived on the scene, finding Kunze’s vehicle behind the others. The two witnesses reported to the deputy that shots had been fired. The deputy found the suspect face down in the ditch, with Kunze on his side next to the suspect. Kunze had been shot once in the upper torso above his bullet-proof vest, and the suspect shot twice.
The deputy found a 40-caliber handgun next to the suspect. He secured the handgun, handcuffed the suspect and began administering first aid to Deputy Kunze. Shortly after, a citizen with EMT training arrived on the scene and began helping administer first aid.
Once EMS arrived, Kunze was transported to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis, and was declared dead at 2:55 p.m.
The suspect, identified as 29-year-old Robert C. Greeson, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Cheney police were involved in Sunday’s response. Officers went to the scene of the shooting, and later were involved with the recovery of a silver Dodge that has been since been tied to the suspect. The vehicle was reported to the Sheriff’s Department, and they asked Cheney Police to respond. They found the vehicle some time after 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
“We got on scene and something didn’t look right,” Cheney Police Chief Ken Winter said Monday.
It was not immediately clear that the Dodge was connected to Greeson but, “We started tying some things together,” Winter said.
A day of thefts, a history of trouble
Sheriff Easter said Greeson is suspected in three other crimes committed on Sunday.
At 12:55 a.m., Wichita Police responded to a report of a stolen silver Dodge vehicle that was possibly taken during an aggravated robbery.
At 9:22 a.m., Deputy Kunze responded to a possible larceny case in the 3000 block of West MacArthur where a 40-caliber handgun was stolen from a vehicle. The gun is similar to the one found at the scene of Sunday’s shooting. It has not yet been confirmed that the gun found at the shooting is the stolen gun.
Later Sunday, it was discovered that a black Chevy had been stolen from the 3800 block of West MacArthur, not far from where the gun was stolen. The owners of the Chevy were not immediately aware the vehicle had been stolen.
“Currently, we’re operating on the theory that all these are tied in to the same suspect,” Easter said.
Records show Greeson had a history of legal trouble.
In 2009, Greeson was arrested and later convicted in Ellis County for distributing hallucinogenic drugs. In 2010, he was arrested in Ellis County for aggravated battery and was sentenced for that crime in January 2011.
In 2012, Greeson was arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
While on probation in 2013, Greeson absconded and violated his probation, which resulted in him going back to prison. In 2016, he absconded again but that December, he went back to jail on counts of assault, interfering with a law enforcement officer and a drug charge.
His record includes a probation violation in 2017 and a DUI conviction in Kingman County in 2017. He was last released from prison in November 2017.
A community grieves
Sheriff Easter spoke about Deputy Kunze on Sunday night.
“On a personal note, we’ll always remember him for his smile, his contagious laugh and his ability to engage anyone and everyone in a conversation. Deputy Kunze will be absolutely missed, and we ask for you to please pray for him and his family. Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office has suffered a great loss today and a life-altering tragedy for Deputy Kunze’s family,” he said.
Kunze leaves behind a wife and a daughter.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt offered his condolences on Kunze’s death.
“The tragic line-of-duty death today of Deputy Robert Kunze reminds all Kansans once again of the dangerous but indispensable public service given by law enforcement officers each and every day. Our prayers go out for Deputy Kunze’s family and for all the men and women of the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office at this difficult and heartbreaking time,” Schmidt said.
Sunday’s shooting brought out a heavy law enforcement presence. Roads were closed a mile in each direction from the shooting, and remained closed Sunday night. They reopened on Monday.
Law enforcement officers from Cheney, Goddard, Mount Hope, Maize, Wichita and the Kansas Highway Patrol were on the scene at various times. The Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is assisting in the investigation, Easter said. He thanks all the police and emergency agencies that helped on Sunday.
“We’re very grateful that they all came to our assistence. That’s pretty normal in our community,” Easter said.
Many other law enforcement agencies and government officials offered their condolences. Social media was filled with well-wishes and memories from regular folks across the county and the state.
Remembering Deputy Robert Kunze III
A public vigil was held Tuesday evening at the Sedgwick County Law Enforcement Memorial, which is located on the southwest corner of Central and Main in downtown Wichita, by Wichita City Hall.
Kunze’s funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Central Community Church, 6100 W. Maple in Wichita. Burial will follow at Resthaven Gardens of Memory, 11800 W. Maple in Wichita. Hundreds of people or more are expected to attend the funeral.
Viewing was scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Wednedsay and Thursday at Resthaven.
Local police hit hard by Deputy Kunze’s death
Sunday’s killing of Segwick County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Kunze III has reverberated through law enforcement agencies and the community at large.
Kunze was well acquainted with police departments in Cheney, Garden Plain and Goddard, which are part of the beat Kunze normally worked.
Kunze’s death has hit the Cheney Police Department especially hard because of the close working relationship between Kunze and Cheney’s law enforcement officers.
For Cheney Police Chief Ken Winter, Deputy Kunze was not just a colleague – he was a friend.
“He was the first Sedgwick County Deputy to welcome me to law enforcement in this county,” said Winter, whose career included stops in Sumner and Butler counties before he arrived in Cheney in 2014.
Winter and the rest of Cheney’s officers referred to the deputy simply as “Kunze.” Winter said they talked once or twice per week.
“We struck up a friendship,” Winter said. “He was a heck of a guy. He was a friend with all our guys.”
He said Kunze gave his all to the area, working what is known as “8 Beat,” the southwestern part of Sedgwick County. Winter said Kunze loved the beat and took a lot of care with the people on that beat.
“If he wrote you a ticket, you thanked him. That’s the kind of guy he was.”
Garden Plain Police Chief Rob Sharp also described Kunze as a friend.
“I’ve known him since I’ve been here. He’s probably one of the best deputies around,” Sharp said. “He was always out on the beat where he was supposed to be. He would help in any way he could, and he’s helped this department many times.”
This is not the first time that an officer Sharp has known has been killed in the line of duty. He worked with Sheriff’s Deputy Kevin Easter while he was with the Clearwater Police Department. Easter was on third shift, and Easter and Sharp worked numerous calls together.
The relationship between different law enforcement agencies is critical.
“We help Cheney, we help Goddard, (and) they help us. We help the sheriff’s department, and they help us,” Sharp said. “They never fail to come and help.”
Lt. Lance Beagley of the Goddard Police Department said he started working in Goddard at about the same time Kunze came on board with the sheriff’s office.
“He was one of the deputies you could count on to be out working in the county. He was interactive where people lived. He knew people’s history because he worked the beat so long,” he said.
Beagley said Kunze had an ability to help smaller agencies like Goddard and the other towns in Sedgwick County. Kunze’s training in various areas helped local police departments with cases such as the 2015 vehicle-pedestrian collision that killed Goddard residents Paul LaBrue and David Bell. Kunze had completed a pedestrian vehicular investigation class not long before that accident.
Beagley said the younger patrol officers in Goddard who worked most with Kunze would feel his loss the most.
“For them to lose someone early in their careers, it’s a blast of reality of how dangerous our work is,” Beagley said. Goddard was among the departments that responded to Sunday’s shooting.
Kunze also was a regular presence in Clearwater, which is part of 7 Beat. Kunze would often assist in the Clearwater area if the regular deputy for that beat was tied up.
Kunze was in the Cheney Police Department Sunday before heading out on what would be his final call. He visited with Cheney Sgt. Mario Martinez about the gun case he was working from earlier that morning. He left Cheney when he was dispatched to a suspicious character call north of Garden Plain.
“Ten to 15 minutes later, he hit his alert button,” Winter said, a signal to dispatch that he was in trouble.
Winter said the department has already had several debriefings related to Kunze’s death. Police chaplain Joe Seifert, pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, has visited with officers more than once.
“We want to take care of our people,” Winter said.
While every officer knows each call could be his or her last, it is possible to get a bit comfortable making stops because of the frequency. At the same time, officers can sometimes come off as unfriendly to motorists because they don’t know what they are facing with any given stop. Kunze’s death on Sunday brings home to all law enforcement officers the unknown dangers they face.
Winter described Kunze as a family man who was involved with his child’s life. Kunze is survived by his wife and daughter.
“He was a heck of a guy. He was a friend to all our guys,” Winter said. “I’m going to miss him. We’ll all miss him, but me especially, because he was a friend.”