Aishah Coppage struggles every time she goes to the Kansas City graveyard where her slain 8-year-old son is buried.
It is leaving the graveside of Montell Ross that causes Coppage so much pain.
“I have to build strength because it feels like I am leaving my baby again,” Coppage said Thursday. “And I don’t like that feeling.”
A reward for information leading to the arrest in the August 2016 shooting deaths of Montell and his 9-year-old cousin Jayden Ugwuh is now $2,500.
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Coppage says she hopes the additional money can serve as an incentive for someone to come forward, even the shooters.
“I am hoping that when they see numbers, they see money,” she said. “In reality I am hoping that when somebody sees numbers, they see dollar signs and want to speak up.”
The two boys were playing video games early Aug. 13 when a barrage of at least 20 gunshots ravaged their home in the 5700 block of College Avenue, fatally wounding them. A 16-year-old girl also was hit, but her injuries were not life-threatening.
That night, the family had just gotten home from church, Coppage said. It was too late to prepare dinner, so she gave them hot dogs and chips. Since there was no school the following morning, Coppage said the boys were allowed to play videos games.
Then the sound of gunfire erupted, destroying a peaceful and restful night.
Coppage and her husband were sleeping when her older daughter rushed into her bedroom and yelled that Montell had been shot.
Gun smoke had filled the living room when Coppage and her husband raced into it. But it was too late.
“These were two kids who absolutely did nothing wrong,” she said. “It was two kids who were where they were supposed to be. They weren’t outside. They were inside their home.”
Coppage’s four surviving children are afraid to stand underneath or by windows because that’s where the shooters aimed their weapons.
“We’re trying to bring security back to our kids obviously because the shooters are still out there,” she said. “The fear of knowing that they are not behind bars is constant with our kids because they were there and they experienced everything.”
The cousins attended Hogan Preparatory Academy and were described by relatives as inseparable.
Montell was a momma’s boy who easily cried, his mother said. But he also was protective of his 2-year-old sister. He followed her everywhere she went to make sure no harm came her way. When the 2-year-old cried, Montell rushed to her aid to see what was wrong.
“He would give her anything. If anybody said no to her, then he would say yeah to her,” Coppage said.
As the one-year anniversary of the boys’ slaying approaches, Coppage says the family continues to cope with their loss.
Aside from occasional vigils, the family has yet to return to their small-framed house on College Avenue. The flood of heart-wrenching memories are too difficult to endure.
Police continue to investigate the shootings. An anonymous donation of $500 was added to the existing reward, bringing the amount to $2,500.
“To know that people refuse to speak up for two kids, it is really mind blowing,” Coppage said. “I didn’t get it then. I still don’t get it. I still don’t understand and I still look at their pictures on fliers and I’m still in disbelief.”
Anyone with information should call the Tips Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).