Jackson County prosecutors on Wednesday threatened to take legal action against the owner of a house at 43rd Street and Forest Avenue in Kansas City that has been the source of repeated gunfire, street fights, unruly crowds and other illegal activity.
But as Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker stood in front of the home, residents came out and shouted obscenities at her and neighborhood leaders for the better part of an hour. The lengthy confrontation was loud but not violent.
Baker joined leaders of the Historic Manheim Neighborhood Association and Kansas City to hand-deliver letters warning residents that their behavior would not be tolerated.
“The purpose was simply to put this family on notice that there is far, far, far unacceptable levels of illegal activity occurring in and from this residence,” Baker said.
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Since February 2016, there have been at least 210 gunshots fired either from or into the two-story, green and brick residence across the street from the Bancroft School Apartments.
“They claim to be victims,” Baker said. “They claim that shots get fired into their residence. That may be true, but they also return gunfire.
“They have large crowds form in front of their house, and frankly, neighbors are just tired. They are tired.”
Angry residents poured out of the house, shouting profanities at Baker, neighborhood leaders and the city of Kansas City as police officers stood guard nearby. Residents said they were unfairly being targeted by authorities and that the letters were unjust.
“The police need to do they damn jobs,” a woman shouted.
“They need to be going out south and find out who killed that 3-year-old baby,” she said, referring to a boy killed in a shooting May 12 at 54th Street and Park Avenue.
Several months ago, the neighborhood association reached out to Baker’s office seeking help when the residents refused to cooperate and end the gunfire and unruly behavior.
“They said: ‘We are desperate, we need help. We have tried knocking on their door, we have tried talking to these people; there is nothing else we can do,’ ” Baker said.
Residents fear that as the weather becomes warmer, the crowds that gather in front of the house will become larger and unruly.
“They block the streets with their vehicles, they openly do drugs and sell drugs, and it is a disgusting situation,” said Bill Drummond, a member of the Manheim neighborhood association board.
On April 9, police responded to the neighborhood after someone called 911 and reported 40 gunshots had been fired.
Baker’s letter said her office may ask a Jackson County judge to authorize forfeiture of the property to the state.
“We will stand with all of our partners to prevent criminal activity occurring at your residence and destroying the neighborhood,” Baker wrote to the homeowner.
Baker said the neighborhood association had repeatedly tried to work with the homeowner in an effort to curb the unruly, reckless and dangerous behavior.
“This has not been the first time that there has been a knock on this door,” Baker said. “They have tried multiple times to engage the residents at this house and try to turn this without having this kind of confrontation. Their hearts are to make this neighborhood safe.”
In a letter to the home’s residents from the neighborhood association, the group says, “We believe all residents deserve to live in a peaceful, crime free neighborhood, including you, as well as those who live around you.”
The gunfire became so pervasive that a resident said her routine is to check on her neighbors, call police and then bring her two elementary-aged children to take cover in her bedroom.
She believes the action taken by Baker and other authorities Wednesday was appropriate and much-needed.
“I can’t get my children suited in bullet-proof vests and all of these pieces of armor just to take them outside,” said the woman, who asked that she not be identified for fear of retribution. “I explain to them as much as I can that we can only be good people and we can pray for our neighbors. We can do a lot by way of example.”