Dusk was setting in July 20 as the Kansas City, Kan., community gathered to honor Robert “Dave” Melton, the police captain shot to death the previous day.
Candles were lit and prayers were in progress, when just over a mile away, gunshots cracked and another man fell to the ground, critically wounded.
It was another shooting during a particularly violent month in Kansas City, Kan.
While one or two homicides a month is the norm, in July, Kansas City, Kan., recorded six homicides, including the July 19 killing of Melton, who was fatally shot while attempting to stop a suspect in a drive-by shooting.
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There also were at least 14 nonfatal shootings during the month, including the wounding of four people in two incidents the day before Melton was killed.
“It was pretty rough,” said Paul Soptick Jr., chairman of the Kansas City, Kan., Neighborhood Crime Prevention Patrol.
The last shooting of the month occurred July 30 in the area of Interstate 35 and Cambridge Circle. Police said that victim is expected to survive.
The city’s six homicides in July account for nearly a third of the 20 recorded so far in 2016.
There also were six homicides in March, but four of those killings came in one incident when Pablo Serrano-Vitorino allegedly stormed into his neighbor’s house and fatally shot four men.
In the city’s July homicides, five of the six were shot to death.
The other, 18-year-old Monica Chavira, was found strangled at a hotel on Southwest Boulevard on July 5.
A Kansas City, Kan., police spokeswoman said there appeared to be “no rhyme or reason” for the spate of shootings in July.
“They are not connected in any way,” Officer Amber Thomas-Hickerson said of the month’s shooting incidents.
A partial explanation may found in the weather.
She said the kind of fiercely hot and humid weather that gripped the area for much of the month often brings with it a spike in violent crime.
Though the crimes have occurred over a wide geographical area of Kansas City, Kan., a number have been clustered in the city’s eastern and central neighborhoods.
In one incident in the 400 block of Freeman Avenue, a 14-year-old boy was wounded in a July 10 shooting. Another man was shot in the leg when he stepped out of his house after hearing gunshots.
About two blocks away, 42-year-old Tyrone Wilson was fatally shot July 25.
Melton was fatally shot about two blocks from where two other men were shot outside a barber shop a week earlier.
Charges have been filed in three of the six homicides in July.
Jamaal Lewis, 20, is charged with capital murder in Melton’s death.
Carlos Gallegos, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in the killing of Chavira at the hotel.
Tyrone Wesson, 53, is charged with second-degree murder in the July 11 killing of Mark A. Payne near 10th Street and Kimball Avenue.
The other homicide victims in July were:
▪ Eduardo Celestin, 19, who was fatally shot July 5 in the 4700 block of Richmond Avenue. Another person was wounded in the incident.
▪ Jacob Comstock, 22, who was killed July 17 when he was shot in the 200 block of North Eighth Street.
▪ Wilson, who was shot to death near Fourth Street and Parallel Avenue.
Despite the bad month, police and community groups are continuing their joint efforts to address violent crime.
About 50 neighborhood groups and several dozen businesses will be represented at Tuesday night’s National Night Out Against Crime event, Soptick said.
The event is planned from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the National Guard Armory at 18th Street and Ridge Avenue.
“We want to bring the community together and show our solidarity in the fight against neighborhood crime,” Soptick said.