Even at age 6, children with Angel Hooper’s promise are hard to find, her teachers said Sunday evening at a vigil in her honor.
But Angel’s family said they’ll most miss a quick-witted, affectionate child who loved books, dancing, singing, cartoons and the music of Michael Jackson.
Hundreds of Angel’s family members and friends gathered at Sycamore Park to remember her and call for justice at a rally held less than a mile from the south Kansas City convenience store where someone in a passing car shot her Friday evening. She died soon after at a nearby hospital. Angel and her father had stopped at the convenience store just after 7 p.m. for a pack of bubblegum after finishing a jog.
Police are checking the store’s surveillance tapes. Anyone with information about the shooting is encouraged to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.
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Maj. Karl Oakman, commander of the police department’s South Patrol Division, promised the police department’s best efforts to track down Angel’s killer.
“Angel has all the power of the Kansas City Police Department behind her,” Oakman said. “Wherever you are, we will find you.”
Speaking before the vigil, Angel’s mother, Charity Guinn, said that police have assured her that they are working leads and she is confident that officers will make an arrest.
“I don’t want whoever did this to think they will get away,” Guinn said.
Watching as people arrived — first by the handfuls at a Sunday-afternoon protest at the convenience store against violence, and then by the dozens as the gathering moved to the park — Guinn said she was comforted by the community’s support.
“It helps a lot to know that people care,” Guinn said.
People knew Angel as an affirming, positive child who also was a “hugger,” friends and family said Sunday. She enjoyed singing at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and loved the contemporary praise-song favorite “How Great Is Our God.” She also served her congregation as a praise dancer, Guinn said.
And Angel convinced Charity Guinn to name her youngest son “Michael” because of her love for Jackson’s music. (Angel didn’t much like “Thriller,” though. Too scary for someone with such a cheery disposition, family members said.)
Angel already was reading before she entered kindergarten last year, Marie Guinn, her grandmother, said. She recalled that Angel’s favorite book was Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat,” an “old school” choice that was typical of Angel.
“That was her mind,” Marie Guinn said.
Charity Guinn said her daughter viewed her future with optimism and wonder. Asked what Angel had said she wanted to be, Charity Guinn ticked off the list with ease: “Cowgirl, ballerina, doctor, nurse and singer.”
Brittany Hans, Angel’s kindergarten teacher last year at Symington Elementary School, described her as an “extremely smart and extremely sweet” girl who had a heart for helping other children.
“She was my little teacher’s aide,” Hans said. “She was smart all the way around and she helped other kids who weren’t getting it as well.”
Speaking later at the vigil, Hans broke down in tears as she described Angel singing “You Are My Sunshine” at the kindergarten graduation.
“That will be forever in my head,” Hans said.
Kimberly Walter, Angel’s first-grade teacher, said she’ll miss Angel when she returns to the classroom Monday morning. Angel, she said, was “a little walking genius” who already had qualified for a gifted and talented program.
A long list of public officials at the vigil offered their condolences and support to Charity Guinn and Angel’s father, Booker Hooper, who locked arms and leaned against each other under the park pavilion.
And one after another, speakers decried how a culture of violence has wounded a community and its children. Even before Friday evening, little Angel would not have had to look far to see it in her own family.
Her older cousin, Mikiyah Guinn, 11, first was wounded in a drive-by shooting when she was 3 years old. And then, at age 9, she was shot again in another drive-by.
Mikiyah said she couldn’t see any reason for the tragedy.
“She was only 6 years old,” Mikiyah said. “She didn’t deserve to die.”
To reach Mark Morris, call 816-234-4310 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.