In a world where violence commands far too many headlines, most of us take comfort in the notion that we can keep trouble at bay by where we live and what we choose to do. And usually, that works.
But security, a fragile concept, was lost in Kansas City this week when a gunman entered a quiet neighborhood on a sunny afternoon, killed three people who were merely going about their business, and critically wounded two others.
Suzanne W. Choucroun, 69, was shot when she walked out the front door of her home in a south Kansas City cul-de-sac. Darrel R. Hurst, 63, and his mother, 88-year-old Alice L. Hurst (known as Lorene), were murdered by gunfire in the latter’s front yard. They had just returned from the grocery store.
Police found two more victims severely beaten in the basement of a neighboring house. Those persons, a man and a woman, were said to be fighting for their lives on Wednesday.
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“It is scary for all of us,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said at a news conference. “That is a beautiful, peaceful neighborhood, and it got hit by a senseless act of violence.”
The suspect in the case was arrested close to midnight after allegedly assaulting three people in a Northland motel. He has terrorized people before. Brandon B. Howell, 34, served prison time for his role in a violent home invasion and robbery in Gardner. And though he wasn’t convicted, he stood trial for the murders of Johnson County teenagers Tabitha Brewer and Nick Travis, his high school acquaintances.
When announcing multiple charges against Howell, including three counts of first-degree murder, officials disclosed that the murder weapon was thought to be a 12-gauge shotgun that Howell had purchased before being sentenced in 2000 on the felony assault charges.
The community can at least take consolation in knowing that, thanks to good police work and tips from citizens, a suspect was taken into custody quickly.
It is also important to note that murders and violent crime in Kansas City are showing encouraging drops this year, as a unified effort by local and federal police and prosecutors appears to be gaining traction.
But that will not console the families and friends of the innocent persons who were killed or assaulted on Tuesday, or calm the rattled nerves of a community. So much was lost in south Kansas City, including a city’s sense of well being.