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Connecticut shooting resonates after police loss in Topeka

December 17, 2012|By Matt Pearce

The Topeka Police Department was grappling Monday with the killing of two officers who were gunned down in the parking lot of a grocery store while responding to a routine call.

When asked how the department in the Kansas city was was coping, Chief Ronald Miller offered this perspective, reflecting on the Connecticut school shooting:

“There’s a lot of people in the United States right now that are grieving a lot of situations going on, so we’re not really any different than anybody else... We’re just about the same as the rest of the country.”

Cpl. David Gogian, 50, and Officer Jeff Atherly, 29, had responded to a call Sunday night of a possible drug deal in the parking lot of a Dillons grocery store.

Three people were in a silver Toyota. When the two officers asked the passengers to get out of the car, a man stepped out of the backseat and shot both officers, police said.

A third officer who had also responded to the call fired at the man, who fled and barricaded himself in an apartment house elsewhere in the city, police said.

After an all night all-night standoff between a Kansas Bureau of Investigation SWAT team and the suspect, police fired tear gas into the house at 6 a.m. Monday. The suspect came out with a gun, fired once and was shot by police.

He was identified as David Edward Tiscareno, 22, of Topeka and died at a the hospital.

Hours later, Chief Miller struggled to explain the killings.

“One of the things that concerns me, we don’t know why he did what he did,” Miller said. “It would have been nice to figure out what his motivation was. We’re not going to know that.”

Few details were immediately available about Tiscareno. An official with the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Department said “he was known to the law enforcement community” but would not elaborate further.

The deaths were the first losses for the roughly 280-member Topeka Police Department since 2000, when two officers died in a helicopter accident while responding to a burglary call. The last time an officer in the department died in the line of duty was 1995.

Miller said the department has been awash with support. “I can’t answer the emails fast enough,” he said. “The condolence emails, I get caught up on answering them, and in three minutes, I have 50 more.”

Gogian was a military veteran who joined the police department eight years ago after graduating with a master’s degree in criminal justice, according to a Facebook profile under his name. He graduated from Eldorado High School in Las Vegas in 1981, according to the profile, and his son works for the Topeka Police Department.

“He was very kind, very professional and very sharp,” said Nikki McDonald, a former co-worker. “His son is just as nice as he was.”

Atherly had joined the police department 18 months ago. According to a graduation announcement from the Topeka Capitol-Journal, he graduated with a bachelor’s in criminal justice from Washburn University in 2009.

Atherly, an only child, loved classic rock and working on cars. His last three cars had all been Mustangs and his dislike of Pink Floyd had been a point of good-natured ribbing between him and Mark Debacker, 28, who lived and went to school with Atherly.

“He was just a fun-loving guy,” Debacker said by phone, mixing laughter and tears as he recalled his friend. “He was always goofy, maybe serious 5% of the time. He wasn’t serious unless it was absolutely necessary.” 

matt.pearce@latimes.com

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