‘Heart of gold’: Friends, family mourn civil process server slain in Independence shooting

Drexel Mack had a big family because his friends often became his family.

It didn’t take him long to accept you as his own, family and friends said Friday, remembering him as a “great father, great uncle and great friend.”

“I still can’t believe it, I’m missing a brother,” Carmon Mack, his sister, said during an interview with The Star on Friday. “This is not OK.”

Drexel Mack, a 41-year-old civil process server for the Jackson County Circuit Court, was shot and killed Thursday while serving a writ of possession at a home in Independence.

Independence police officer Cody Allen, 35, was also shot and killed. Two other police officers were shot and wounded, and were expected to recover.

Larry D. Acree, 69, a longtime resident of the home, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the killings of Drexel Mack and Allen. Acree, also injured during the shooting, was being held in custody on a $2 million bond.

A brother, a friend

Carmon Mack had a close relationship with her brother Drexel from an early age. She remembers being “like two peas in a pod.”

“He was my protector and I was his,” she said.

They grew up in the Bahama Islands and moved to the United States as children. Drexel Mack still has family in Florida, including a 19-year-old son. It was the first place he lived with his sister in America.

Drexel Mack would eventually serve in the U.S. Navy. His sister didn’t want him to go, she said, but he went anyway. While active duty, he was in the U.S. Navy Choir, and she remembers that he had a gifted voice.

“Drexel was very sweet and that boy could sing his behind off,” Carmon Mack said.

Drexel Mack pictured with his sisters Helen Lightbourne (left) and Carmon Mack (center).
Drexel Mack pictured with his sisters Helen Lightbourne (left) and Carmon Mack (center).

Drexel Mack was eventually medically discharged from the Navy. He then worked as a corrections officer in Florida before moving to the Kansas City area in 2010. He again worked as a corrections officer locally before being hired to work for Jackson County.

Darnell Hill, a friend and former coworker of Drexel Mack, met him about a decade ago. At the time, Hill was working in a diversion program with youth offenders, and Mack was assigned to a group home where some of those youths lived.

Shortly after, Drexel Mack went to work in civil processing, and Hill followed him into the same department.

“Mack had a really big heart for his family and for people,” Hill said.

Hill said his friend took his job seriously and was meticulous about how he worked with others. Drexel Mack wore his court deputy badge with dignity and pride, Hill said.

Drexel Mack was around six feet tall and could be intimidating to others. But in reality, Hill said, he was genuine and kind with a contagious smile.

“He was big in stature, but man, he had a heart of gold,” Hill said. “I know his passion was, when he worked with the family court, he was able to render social skills to those in the group home. … He had real conversations with some of those kids.”

“We even lost a kid — a kid was killed that was part of the group home — and Mack and I took it real hard,” Hill said. “We were there for each other.”

Drexel Mack (left) with his son Drexel Mack Jr.
Drexel Mack (left) with his son Drexel Mack Jr.

Hill said their work often put them in difficult social situations where not everybody liked them, but it was hard for anyone to dislike Mack. People in the community, including property managers working with him on evictions, enjoyed his company.

Jackson County 16th Judicial Circuit Court Presiding Judge Jalilah Otto said Drexel Mack worked with the courts for 12 years.

Otto said this was the first time she has heard of a civil process server killed in the line of duty.

“It’s very difficult,” Otto said in a press conference outside Centerpoint Medical Center Thursday. “Everyone in… the courthouse is there because that is where they want to be as public servants to try and make Jackson County as best as they can.”

“Drexel has been a fixture there for over a decade,” she said. “He’s beloved by many, (he) is kind and a hard worker. So we’re still fighting through it. … This is going to affect us very much in the next few weeks.”

During a press conference Friday on the fourth floor of the Jackson County courthouse in downtown Kansas City, Jack Foster, director of the court’s civil process servers, recalled hiring Drexel Mack about 10 years ago.

Over his career, Drexel Mack was named the top employee during his third year with the office, Foster said, and received glowing reviews from his coworkers.

As an execution deputy, Drexel Mack was responsible for serving out orders of protection and many of the court’s “most time sensitive and important” documents. He was remembered as a hard worker, who went above and beyond to follow through with tracking down and carrying out the demands of his job.

Foster said Drexel Mack was part of a small department within the court — a staff of about 15 execution officers and seven clerical staff members — where coworkers were also feeling the pain of his sudden loss.

‘Always cracking jokes’

Hill also remembers that Drexel Mack was a big gamer. He enjoyed games like Madden 2K, and his consoles of choice were the Playstation 4 and Playstation 5. Hill remembers going to Drexel Mack’s house in south Kansas City on Saturdays for a couple games of 2K.

He said Drexel Mack balanced his work and family life well, and that his friends often became more like family.

Drexel Mack with his fiance Janelle Ruffin.
Drexel Mack with his fiance Janelle Ruffin.

Drexel Mack is survived by his fiancé, Janelle Ruffin, who has three children, and his son Drexel Mack Jr., 19, who lives in Miami near other relatives. He also had a few other children he considered his own, his sister said.

“He had ups and downs in relationships but he found somebody that loved him and he loved her,” Hill said of Mack’s fiancé. “She was a really big part of his life.”

Drexel Mack was always smiling and cracking jokes, his sister said, never asking for help and always making sacrifices for others.

“I don’t even understand how we move forward from this,” Carmon Mack said. “He was really special.”