Will the shooting death of a Kansas City firefighter by off-duty KCPD officer reignite historic tensions between both departments?

A Kansas City, Missouri, firefighter was shot dead downtown in the early morning hours of December 1; the suspected assailant is a Kansas City Police Department officer who was off duty at the time.

The KCPD officer, whose identity hasn’t been confirmed, was in uniform when he responded to a dispute at 12th Street and Wyandotte in downtown Kansas City. The officer spotted the firefighter, identified in several media reports as 26-year-old Anthony Bruno, a block away at 13th Street and Baltimore. The police account of the incident says Bruno started fighting the KCPD officer, inflicting serious injuries until the officer shot Bruno with this KCPD-issued gun. Both men were taken to a nearby hospital – Bruno was pronounced dead while the officer was admitted and has been treated for injuries.

James Garrett, a KCFD spokesman, was not immediately available for comment Monday morning.

The KCPD is expected to release a new statement Monday about the matter. 

Update – 1:13 p.m. (The KCPD’s statement offered little in the way of new information from what was provided on Sunday. The officer involved in the shooting is a 17-year veteran of the department. He was in uniform and working “in a law enforcement capacity” for a downtown business when he heard that a cab driver downtown was assaulted. When the officer found Bruno and tried to arrest him, Bruno pinned the officer down and kept punching him, leading to the shooting. The officer is expected to require surgery to repair facial injuries once his swelling subsides.)

The natural question in the aftermath of the shooting is whether the incident stoked an uneasy, historical tension between Kansas City’s two public-safety agencies?

We’re told that the two departments generally work well together, but that Sunday’s incident raises concerns going forward.

Kansas Citians with long memories recall the firefighters’ strike in 1975 as perhaps the low point in relations between the two departments. It was that year when the Kansas City Firefighters Local No. 42 threatened to go on strike, upset about the pay disparity between the KCPD and the firefighters union. After federal mediation failed to resolve the dispute, the firefighters union voted to go on strike on October 3, 1975. The city, obviously concerned about losing the services of its firefighters, obtained a court order the day before prohibiting a strike. The firefighters union went on strike anyway, forcing KCPD officers to act temporarily as makeshift firefighters by equipping their patrol cars with fire extinguishers.

Missouri quickly activated the state militia in Kansas City until the strike ended four days later.

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