Venancio Perez was only two blocks from home, returning from an errand, when his life suddenly ended.
Wichita police say a stolen truck driven by a man fleeing from officers ran a stop sign and slammed into Perez’s pickup.
Perez’s partner, Tim Russell, said Wednesday that Perez had gone to pay for insurance on a house they were going to buy when the stolen truck crashed into him a little after 10 a.m. Tuesday at Harry and Wichita, in a south-central neighborhood, a few blocks west of Broadway.
Now, Russell said, the money they would have used for the house will go for Perez’s funeral.
The irony, Russell said, was that Perez “was one of the safest drivers I’ve ever known.” He drove the speed limit. Wore his seat belt. Apparently had it on when he was killed. And, on that last errand, he had ventured only five blocks from home.
“He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Russell said. “If he had left the insurance office a minute before … it would have never happened.”
Russell, 55, was at work when he got a call from police Tuesday. They asked if he had a black truck. It was registered to him.
“Yeah, but my partner’s driving it.”
Russell asked, “Is there an accident?”
Police told him they wanted him to come home before they could discuss it further. On his way, Russell saw his smashed Chevy Colorado. A tarp had been placed over the cab.
Police told him that Perez, 38, died immediately.
“The police were very nice,” Russell said.
Russell said the tragedy has raised some concern in his mind. “This isn’t the first time someone has died because police were chasing somebody, and that’s sad,” he said.
He said he wishes that police had never started the pursuit. Still, he said, “The blame goes to the person who decided to run, whether the police chased him or not.”
He realizes, he said, that the chase didn’t last very long, that it happened so fast for police that “I don’t think they had time to make a decision.”
He understands it’s not easy being a police officer, Russell said. His son-in-law is an officer for another agency.
“The fact is, you can’t change what happened,” Russell said. His partner “is not coming back.”
Perez was quiet, gentle and handy, and his back yard reflected it. He dug a fish pond. He built raised flower beds and made his own charcoal so it to could be placed under plants to hold in moisture. He took an old bunk bed and sheets of salvaged glass and built a greenhouse. “He liked to repurpose,” Russell said.
“In the summer, our yard looked like the botanical garden. Seriously.”
Perez was godfather to Russell’s grandchildren. “My family loved him. Even my ex-wife would give him plants,” Russell said.
On his enclosed back porch Wednesday, Russell glanced down at rows of flowers and tomato plants, just now leafing out, that Perez had grown from seed.
“He was just getting ready to put them out next week,” he said.
Perez was born in Mexico, and he immigrated to the United States in 2000, Russell said. They met in Portland, Ore., and ended up in Wichita seven years ago. Perez managed the meat department at Super del Centro grocery store at Woodlawn and Lincoln.
On Tuesdays, he worked a later shift. That’s why he was running an errand on the last morning of his life.
Russell and Perez had been together for 12 years.
Russell said he hopes that others realize something in the loss – “that gay couples are just as important as straight people. Whatever your background, people are people.”
“Even the person that hit (Perez) is loved by somebody.”