SPRINGFIELD, Missouri - The Missouri police officer struck by lightning while helping in search and rescue efforts in Joplin passed away from his injuries Friday, his Chief of Police said.
Jefferson Taylor, known by family and friends as Jeff, was assisting in disaster response May 23 when he was struck by lightning during thunderstorms that moved through the Joplin area a day after the deadly tornado.
He was part of a 12-member contingent of police officers, firefighters and public works staff members from Riverside, just north of Kansas City.
"He was a highly dedicated officer and a devoted public servant," said Greg Mills, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety for the City of Riverside, "and we will always remember his sacrifice."
Taylor, on the force since 2005 and a former Officer of the Year, is the first Riverside police officer to die in the line of duty and the first emergency responder to die as a result of the Joplin tornado.
"We are saddened by the loss of our officer and loyal public servant," Riverside Mayor Kathy Rose said. "He died upholding a tradition of our community and many communities like ours to serve and protect, and to help neighbors in need. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
Taylor had just returned to a command post on the evening of May 23 when lightning struck the ground near where he was working.
After public safety workers performed CPR and stabilized him, he was transported to a Joplin area hospital and eventually to St. John's Hospital in Springfield, where he died at 9:25 a.m. Friday.
"We are heartbroken," Chief Mills said. "Our department, our community and law enforcement as a whole have lost a dedicated professional doing what he did best – helping those who were in need. The fragility of life gives way to the enduring spirit Jeff showed to us all. Our department will never be the same."
Cards and messages are welcome and can be sent to:
City of Riverside Police Department
2990 NW Vivion Road
Riverside, MO 64150.