Antonio Dennis kept telling his aunt how he believed in his adopted son.
That was despite his son’s burglary charge and pending trial. Dennis even persuaded colleagues at a Lee’s Summit fast-food restaurant to hire his 19-year-old son.
But the son, Shaquil Roland, allegedly shot to death Dennis on Friday night just outside the restaurant.
“Antonio saw a troubled boy who needed some guidance,” said Nickie Dennis, aunt of Antonio Dennis.
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Prosecutors charged Roland with second-degree murder in the shooting outside the Burger King in the 1300 block of Northeast Douglas Street.
According to court records, Roland and Dennis were working at the restaurant, where Dennis was a manager. The two began to argue and stepped outside.
Roland soon returned crying, placed a handgun on the counter, said he was “sorry” several times and ran from the restaurant, court records said.
Nickie Dennis said she did not know what the argument was about.
“The most important thing to know was that Antonio had a very kind and loving heart,” she said. “Antonio told me all the time that he just wanted to help Shaq.”
Antonio Dennis first met Roland several years ago at a Kansas City area youth home, where Dennis worked at the time. He felt moved to help the teenager, Nickie Dennis said.
“When Shaq was in the group home, none of the other workers there wanted to work with him. They didn’t want to take the time,” Nickie Dennis said.
“But Antonio did.”
Antonio Dennis completed his adoption of Roland in 2014, she said. The two shared a Kansas City residence.
“Antonio and Shaq had forged a bond,” she said. “He had already started calling him ‘Dad,’ and Shaq already had begun thinking of all of us as his own family. He was happy to have a family to associate with.
“My son is only a few months apart in age (from Roland) and I would take Shaquil to the same places I brought my son — out for pizza, to Cool Crest, to the movies.”
After prosecutors charged Roland with burglary last year, Antonio Dennis stood by Roland.
“He exhausted every avenue, working really hard to see if there was any way he could help Shaq in that situation,” Nickie Dennis said. “He tried to explain to court officials that Shaq was not as mentally developed as he should be and that he needed someone to speak on his behalf.”
He also got Roland the Burger King job.
“Antonio made sure that his shifts coincided with Shaquil’s so they could work at the same time,” Nickie Dennis said.
Roland, who also is charged with armed criminal action in Friday’s shooting, made his initial court appearance Tuesday. His bond has been set at $200,000.