Officer Jefferson “Jeff” Taylor, who was struck by lightning on Monday, May 23, while on tornado disaster response duty in Joplin, Mo., passed away in Springfield, Mo., today. He was 31 years old.
“Jeff Taylor volunteered to assist with the Joplin disaster recovery,” said Greg Mills, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety for the City of Riverside, Mo. “He was a highly dedicated officer and a devoted public servant, and we will always remember his sacrifice.”
Officer Taylor is the first officer in the history of Riverside Police Department to die in the line of duty, and the first emergency disaster responder to pass away as a result of the May 22 Joplin tornado.
Taylor was part of Riverside’s 12-member contingent of police officers, firefighters and public works staff members who responded to the Joplin tornado disaster. On the evening after the tornado, as a new line of storms moved through the Joplin area, Taylor had just returned to a command post when lightning struck the ground near where he was working.
Public Safety workers on the scene performed CPR and stabilized him for further treatment. He underwent successful skin graft surgery and was being treated for other complications when he died. Family members were at his side when he died at 9:25 a.m. on June 3, 2011, at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Mo.
“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.”
Kathy Rose, Mayor of Riverside, said: “We are saddened by the loss of our officer and loyal public servant. 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 joined the Riverside Police Department in 2005 and held the rank of Master Patrolman at the time of his death. He was named Officer of the Year in 2008.
Many in the community knew Taylor from his work with the department’s K-9 Unit from 2007 through 2010. He previously was an officer with the Webb City, Mo., Police Department.
Information about survivors and services will be announced as soon as details are finalized.
Cards and messages are welcome:
City of Riverside Police Department
2950 NW Vivion Road
Riverside, MO 64150.
In addition, an account has been established in honor of Officer Taylor to assist his family with expenses:
Taylor Benefit Account
K.C. Police Credit Union
2800 East 14th Street
Kansas City, MO 64127
Media contact: Meredith Hauck, Riverside Public Information Officer, mobile or text (816) 739-3676. Members of Officer Taylor’s family request privacy at this time and are not available for interviews.