Remembering detective Lancaster and Kyla Tiller during a somber week

Never had the chance to meet Brad Lancaster, at least not that I can recall. My guess would be that I’d remember that interaction if it occurred.

My loss.

Based on what I can gather, this area lost a great man when a rogue convict gunned down Lancaster in the line of duty. What struck me most in the days after this senseless crime spree was the uniform and wide-spread reaction to this Kansas City (Kan.) detective’s death.

Those who knew him best praised him. Those who knew of him mourned. Those who didn’t know him were introduced to a selfless servant of the people.

Brad Lancaster

Brad Lancaster

And Brad Lancaster seemed very much like a man from Platte County, a dedicated military man and police officer who also enjoyed a lot of the regular life that makes this area special. Lancaster loved Royals baseball, demolition derbies and pyrotechnics. He served stints with two different volunteer fire departments in the area.

Luckily for us, Lancaster’s calling went beyond these Midwestern hobbies.

Lancaster served in the U.S. Air Force before returning home to this area. He grew up in Weston and eventually joined the Platte County Sheriff’s Office, starting in detention and working his way up. 

Eventually, Lancaster joined the KCK Police Department, which took him across the state line but not far from home and the people who knew him best.

I enjoyed a short conversation with Sgt. Jeffrey Shanks of the Platte County Sheriff’s Office last week in the wake of Lancaster’s death. Shanks made sure to point out that Lancaster still regularly interacted with the local department, and investigations he participated in allowed him to work with many local agencies.

Any officer senselessly killed in the line of duty impacts the community, but this one seemed to touch many lives across a wide area.

Officials scheduled Lancaster’s memorial service for Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan. — quite the venue for those to pay respects. The scene was amazing with emotional displays, including officer Danon Vaughn singing a rendition of “Amazing Grace” with tears streaming down his face.

The service concluded with a pyrotechnics display that would have made Lancaster proud.

There’s not much we can do in the aftermath of this tragedy except remember and try not to forget. Those who had the pleasure of knowing Lancaster during his 39 years of life will surely do whatever possible to keep his memory alive.

*** This bench on the grounds of Rising Star Elementary was dedicated in memory of Kyla Tiller, killed in an accident at her home when she was in the first grade. With the school closing, the bench will now be donated to her family.
This bench on the grounds of Rising Star Elementary was dedicated in memory of Kyla Tiller, killed in an accident at her home when she was in the first grade. With the school closing, the bench will now be donated to her family.

In this space a few weeks ago, I briefly mused about a simple cement bench located on the playground of Rising Star Elementary in Platte City, a school which was shut down for good Tuesday, May 17 at the end of the 2015-16 school year.

Officials placed the simple memorial there years earlier after the death of a bubbly first grade student Kyla Tiller, who was in my class with Mrs. Roberts at the time of the unfortunate accident. I didn’t really think much of it, other than trying to share my memories to invoke those of others who attended the school.

Many of us sat on that bench during recess or while passing through to use the playground.

Most of us who attended school with Kyla never forgot her, nor her bench. By chance, Alissa, Kyla’s younger sister, happened to be in town and read the column I wrote, which led her to contact current and past school officials.

With the school shutting down, I had wondered what might happen to the bench.

I received the answer during the Fond Farewell to Rising Star event held last week (more on the ceremony on page 1 of this week’s issue). School officials plan to return the bench to the family for placement on the family farm, still located in rural Platte County.

Alissa indicated that the family plans to place the bench under a tree planted in Kyla’s honor, one that’s much bigger more than 25 years after it was planted. This will be another reminder for the family who lost a daughter and a sister way too young.

That bench sat under a tree at Rising Star for a long time, but this new home seems very fitting. Alissa wrote the following words about the chain of events that led to this conclusion:

“For many years the bench dedicated to my sister’s life has sat under that big tree. 

So many years of happy children have sat on it at recess, including me. 

Now that the school is closing no recess will be held there for the kids to play.

I made some calls resulting in some great news for us today. 

Kyla’s bench will be removed from under that big tree. 

Never to be forgotten, it is soon coming home to our family.”

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.