Neighbors on a quiet street in Independence were left with unanswered questions this week after the arrest Friday of John C. Young, 45, in the May 25 road rage killing of a 19-year-old in Kansas City.
Police, acting on a tip, arrested Young more than a week after someone shot Christopher Hutson and then drove away. Hutson’s girlfriend, seven months pregnant and sitting in the car with him, was injured but survived.
Jackson County prosecutors charged Young with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action.
Those charges surprised some of Young’s neighbors on North Belvidere Avenue, who knew Young as a sober family man who helped set up July Fourth fireworks every summer.
Young lived with his wife in a three-bedroom house in a well-kept corner of a suburban subdivision near the eastern edge of the city.
A cabinet maker by trade, Young had a reputation for keeping his lawn neater than most on the block, said Harvey Green, Young’s friend and neighbor from across the street. Green said he was surprised to find police buzzing around Young’s home on Friday.
“This whole thing has shocked me,” Green said. “He’s never been heated, or started trouble, that I know of.
“He’s a softie.”
Green said he has known Young for years and has mixed emotions about the charges. He hopes there is an explanation for what role Young played in the shooting, and wonders if more transpired between the two men than what has been told publicly so far.
But he is troubled by the allegation that Young left the scene. And he has known Young to carry a pistol for protection.
“Who knows what happened on the highway,” Green said. “Why would you leave the scene?”
According to Kansas City police, Hutson, of Lee’s Summit, was driving with his girlfriend eastbound on Interstate 435 after a sonogram appointment when they became disoriented in rush-hour traffic.
Hutson exited at State Line Road, headed north, then took a right at 103rd Street. Unsure where they were, the couple drove slowly and checked their phones for directions.
When they stopped for a red light at Wornall Road, a car pulled up beside them and a man in the car cursed at them. “Learn to (expletive) drive,” the man said.
Hutson tailgated the other driver, intending to say something to him. But before he could, the other car pulled even with him and the driver shot him in the head. The bullet that killed Hutson also grazed his girlfriend. The shooter drove away.
The case remained a mystery until the following Friday, when a tipster called police to identify Young as the shooter.
Young has reportedly told police he has a self-defense argument to make.
Green, his friend from North Belvidere Avenue, said he is hopeful there is something to it. Green said he wouldn’t expect Young to be the aggressor. Young doesn’t drink, doesn’t normally have conflicts with people and is a family man, Green said, with one adult son.
The Greens and Youngs and one or two other families on the block often socialize and sometimes blocked the street off for July Fourth celebrations. Green and Young worked together on the fireworks display.
Young is a graduate of Grandview High School and was married about 15 months ago, according to his Facebook page.
Young has been ill in recent years, Green said, and that — combined with resulting financial pressures — could have been weighing on his mind.
And as someone who drives a lot every day for work, Green said, he knows road rage can strike anyone. “You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Or who’s going to shoot you or what.”
During the days between the shooting and the arrest, Green didn’t see Young, he said.
“I don’t have anything bad to say about him,” Green said. “He’s somebody who takes care of his friends and his family.”
Young was in custody Monday at the Jackson County jail on $250,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in Jackson County Circuit Court June 22.