Chief recalls ‘harrowing’ incident on bridge

John Richmeier

A week after a man allegedly fired shots at vehicles on the Centennial Bridge, the Leavenworth police chief recalled the incident as harrowing and frightening.

“It was an absolutely awful event,” Chief Pat Kitchens said.

He spoke about the May 27 incident during a virtual town hall meeting, which was hosted Wednesday by Leavenworth Mayor Mike Griswold.

Kitchens said young children were in vehicles that were struck by bullets.

One person, an Army recruiter, was wounded.

Griswold said the soldier, who is a member of a local recruiting office, has since been released from the hospital.

“He’s doing a lot better and we’re thankful for that,” Griswold said.

Another soldier, Master Sgt. David Royer, has been credited with stopping the shooter.

Kitchens said Royer saw the suspect and, “using the only option available,” struck the man with his pickup truck.

Royer is assigned to the 705th Military Police Battalion of the 15th MP Brigade at Fort Leavenworth.

Kitchens said members of the Leavenworth Police Department have been in communication with officials at Fort Leavenworth to provide information to ensure Royer receives the highest recognition available to him through the Army.

“I’m certain they will be moving forward with that as expeditiously as possible,” Kitchens said.

Griswold said he hopes for Royer to be recognized by the city government sometime in the future.

“I am certainly committed to doing that,” he said.

Kitchens said there has been a lot of discussion about whether Royer should receive a free truck after his vehicle was damaged during the incident on the bridge.

The police chief said he hopes Royer will receive a free truck.

“I don’t know how that’s going to end up, but hopefully we can get his truck fixed and get all of that situation resolved,” Kitchens said.

But Kitchens said Royer’s actions on May 27 had not been motivated by a desire for a new truck.

“He is just a great guy, an extraordinary guy,” the police chief said.

In addition to officers from the Leavenworth Police Department, members of the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office, Kansas Highway Patrol and Platte County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Centennial Bridge the morning of the shooting.

“I think all told there were about 75 police officers that responded,” Kitchens said.

Jason R. Westrem, the man who has been identified as the shooting suspect, is charged with nine counts in Leavenworth County District Court including attempted first-degree murder.

Westrem also was taken to the hospital after the incident on the bridge.

County Attorney Todd Thompson said Thursday in an email that he does not know when Westrem will make his first court appearance in the case.

Twitter: @LVTNewsJohnR