A retired Lawrence police captain who served the department more than 26 years was killed Sunday evening in a one-vehicle crash in Topeka.
The accident happened about 7 p.m. on Interstate 70 at Rice Road in Topeka, and killed Raymond A. Urbanek, 58, of Lawrence, according to a preliminary report from the Kansas Highway Patrol.
Urbanek was driving a pickup eastbound when the vehicle left the highway and overturned, according to the patrol’s report. He was wearing a seat belt, according to the report.
The pickup was the only vehicle involved in the crash, according to the report.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident last night, and extend our sincerest thoughts and condolences to his family and friends,” Lawrence police officer Drew Fennelly said Monday, on behalf of the police department. “Captain Urbanek’s dedication to his community and cherished friendship to so many will be missed tremendously.”
Urbanek was with the Lawrence Police Department from 1985 until 2011, when he retired at the rank of captain, Fennelly said.
Urbanek grew up in Topeka, graduated from Washburn University with a business degree and eventually worked for the Kansas Highway Patrol before being hired by the Lawrence Police Department, the Journal-World reported in 2011, upon his retirement. He served six years as a patrol officer, including working in the drug investigation unit, before he was promoted to sergeant in 1991 and, later, lieutenant and captain. Colleagues described him as a “genuine” person known for his rapport with the public.
When he retired, Urbanek told the Journal-World that he wanted to be a cowboy growing up, not a cop, but that he grew into the profession.
“The most misunderstood aspect of law enforcement is that we are just people. We have hopes and fears just like everybody else, and we go out every day and deal with other people who have problems. We help them to the extent we can,” Urbanek said in the 2011 Journal-World article. “This job is obviously not for everyone, but I still believe after all these years it’s a very honorable profession.”
Urbanek lived in rural Lawrence, with his wife, Kerrie.
Longtime friend Mike Yancey, of Spring Hill, who said he and Urbanek grew up on the same block in Topeka and remained close, said Urbanek was an avid outdoorsman who hunted often, and fished competitively.
Urbanek was driving home from a hunting trip in South Dakota when the wreck occurred, Yancey said. Yancey said Urbanek’s hunting dog, Bella, was in the truck with him, but survived the wreck.
Urbanek was a natural leader, had many friends and was the kind of person you could trust, Yancey said. Even off-duty from policework, Yancey said, he looked out for others.
“I don’t know how many times we were late to things because he’d seen somebody broken down on the side of the road, and he’d say, ‘Well, we’ve got to stop and help them,’” Yancey said.