A homeless man was found killed on a mattress behind a Kansas City gas station Thursday morning.
Police identified him as Jimmy Wayne Clark, 57.
The body was discovered about 6:40 a.m. at a makeshift homeless camp in an alley behind the BP station at Independence Avenue and Van Brunt Boulevard in the Northeast area.
At first, police did not know how he died, but a medical examiner investigator found a suspicious wound. Police were investigating the death as a homicide but did not release the cause.
Friends said Clark often slept in the alley and recently dragged mattresses there for himself and his friends. They sat on crates under the shade of the trees to talk and drink during the day.
Carl “Crow” McClelland, a friend, said he last saw Clark about 8 p.m. Wednesday at the scene with another man. Everything was fine, McClelland said.
Police took the man that had been with Clark along with three others to police headquarters Thursday morning to question them.
Friends said Clark grew up on an Indian reservation, where he was a standout athlete. He later served in the Army and fell into alcoholism. He had a son, two daughters and two granddaughters, friends said. Two of his children showed up at the scene Thursday morning and learned their dad had been killed.
Joe Yanez, who spent a lot of time with Clark and called him his best friend, said Clark had no known enemies. About two months ago, however, another homeless man tried to beat Clark, Yanez said. Yanez stepped in between them and fought the man “because (Clark) didn’t do anything wrong.” Yanez said he was arrested for assault afterward.
Clark often mowed lawns, picked up trash and performed other odd jobs, Yanez said. He received regular checks from his tribe, although friends did not know the tribe’s name.
Everyone in the area knew him, said Victoria Tamayo, who met Clark 30 years ago when he stocked shelves at the Heart of America Indian Center. He came into her barbershop about 10 years ago and asked her to cut his long black hair to shoulder length. He kept it short since then and it grayed over the years, Tamayo said.
Clark frequented the nearby Children’s Memorial Lutheran Church for Sunday services and free meals during the week.
“He would come every Sunday and sit with me,” said Lisa Lightfoot, who volunteers for the church. “He was my pew buddy.”
Although Clark struggled with alcoholism, he never caused trouble, Lightfoot said, and “was pretty much content with life.”
“The people out here aren’t bad people,” Lightfoot said. “They’re just lost souls. There’s more to them than just drinking.”