A gunman fatally shot 20-year-old Marvel Johnson on Sunday night after Johnson asked a question, according to Kansas City police.
Johnson and his girlfriend were outside her relative’s home in the 1300 block of East 81st Street about 10:35 p.m. when a young man approached and asked for a light.
Johnson didn’t have a lighter but asked if the man knew anything about car prowlers on the block. Johnson was curious because he had seen someone skulking around the car of his girlfriend’s stepmother.
The query apparently angered the man, who pulled a pistol. He told two elementary-school-age kids near him to “run,” then ran away himself while firing back at Johnson, police said.
A bullet struck Johnson in the abdomen, said his mother, Tiffany Oliver.
Investigators aren’t sure why Johnson’s question prompted such a violent response. The gunman may have been involved in recent car thefts or simply angry about the nature of the question, police said.
Either way, it was no reason to kill, Oliver said.
“That’s all it was,” Oliver said. “He asked him a question.”
Johnson grew up in Kansas City and graduated from Independence’s Truman High School in 2010, Oliver said. After that, he enrolled in a business school, worked at a restaurant and pursued a recording contract for his singing, Oliver said.
“He was always going to recording studios,” she said. “He sang R&B and gospel. He started singing when he was little and wrote some of his own songs. I was really proud of him.”
Johnson sang all the time, even as he rode the city bus, which is how he met his girlfriend, Oliver said.
He was belting out a song to himself, then quickly realized a woman was watching him. He stopped singing.
“She said, ‘Don’t stop. I like it!’ ” Oliver said.
The couple started dating, then shared an apartment in recent months. They were visiting her relative’s house for dinner the night he was killed.
After he was shot, Johnson staggered up the stairs to the home but collapsed.
As his girlfriend held him and rocked him, Johnson told her everything was going to be OK, Oliver said.
“Then he died in her arms,” Oliver said.
Police are trying to identify the gunman and would like to talk with anyone who has information. Detectives aren’t sure if the two children near the shooting scene came with the gunman or just happened to be on the street during the encounter. Anyone with information should call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).