Jeneé Osterheldt

Speak out: Angel Hooper deserves justice now

Angel Hooper
Angel Hooper

Boko Haram and Ferguson? People around the world have chimed in on the kidnapping of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls and the killing of Michael Brown.

As they should.

They sound off via the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. They march to demand accountability.

We have to take action to create change. But what about the crimes within our community, on our watch?

Saturday is the funeral for 6-year-old Angel Hooper, who went to 7-Eleven with her dad in south Kansas City and never went home. A drive-by shooter killed her. There have been vigils, headlines and even a call for a moment of silence at the World Series.

But people are not speaking up enough. Plenty of witnesses saw this shooting around 7:15 on a Friday night. On Monday afternoon, the police had received only two tips.

Since then, the number has grown into the double digits, but that’s not enough. Hot 103 Jamz and the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime teamed up for a special live broadcast, “19 Hour Call for Justice to Support Angel Hooper,” from 6 a.m. Friday to 1 a.m. Saturday. (Tipsters can call Ad Hoc’s secret witness line at 816-753-1111 or the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.)

“People fear that they are snitching and are afraid to come forward,” says Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed, who is Ad Hoc’s interim director.

There’s a stigma attached to speaking to the police. Some of it is rooted in trust issues and police corruption. Some stems from a misguided mentality that snitching is a sign of weakness or could put you in danger.

But what does this silence cost us? Lives.

Sixty people have been murdered in Kansas City this year. How many people saw these crimes and kept them to themselves? Angel Hooper was a first-grader. She should be getting ready for Halloween with her little brother and her classmates at Symington Elementary School. But now her loved ones are preparing for Saturday’s funeral at Canaan Worship Center, 5333 Bannister Road.

Supporters have encouraged the city to help the police find Angel’s killer. They have helped her family with funeral expenses, and 7-Eleven donated $10,000 to the Crime Stoppers reward fund leading to an arrest.

But money should not be a motivator in standing up and speaking out when a child — or anyone — is murdered.

“People have to start taking ownership in our community and understanding the importance of their voices and actually making a difference,” Reed says. “We can’t continue to sit on the sideline and tolerate these types of senseless acts to occur.”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words continue to resonate: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

We cannot be mute in the face of cruelty. When you see a crime, a murder, a 6-year-old shot to death buying bubble gum with her daddy? You speak out. When you don’t, you dim the lights on an entire generation.

To reach Jeneé Osterheldt, call 816-234-4380 or email josterheldt@kcstar.com. “Like” her page on Facebook and never miss a column. Twitter: @jeneeinkc.

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