With a stack of fliers and a mounting frustration, Rosilyn Temple set out before dusk Monday into an east Kansas City neighborhood in search of answers.
From house to house she went, along with a contingent of other volunteers. She chatted up anyone she could find — residents, visitors, those who just happened to drive by — anyone who might be able to shed some light on the Friday evening murder of 18-year-old high school student Asaan Williams at nearby Seven Oaks Park.
One man, asked whether he’d heard any gunshots last Friday, said he heard gunfire all the time. Another man, who claimed his son had seen the murder, offered a vague secondhand description of a vehicle speeding away from the scene afterward.
When Temple spotted a pair of girls pushing bicycles, she convinced them to stop and talk with her. But when they walked away a minute or two later, Temple was unconvinced they were fully forthcoming.
“She knows something,” said Temple, president of the Kansas City chapter of Mothers in Charge, a group of women who have lost children to violence.
Despite the efforts of volunteers, friends, family and law enforcement officials who spent the evening canvassing the neighborhood in search of information, Williams’ death remained shrouded in unanswered questions.
Though numerous witnesses were present when Williams was killed, all had fled before police arrived at the park near 38th Street and Kensington Avenue. As of Monday evening, police said they had received just two tips in the case.
And so, as friends and loved ones gathered at the park Monday night for a vigil in Williams’ memory, those close to him were left with countless questions.
Who killed Asaan? Why? And why hadn’t any of those present come forward?
Even the most basic questions — like why Asaan was at the park in the first place — remained mysteries. His aunt, who spoke to him just three hours before he was killed, said he didn’t live anywhere near the area. Asaan’s father, Haji Williams, speculated that the boy might have been waiting to visit an uncle who lives nearby. Yet the father was unsure exactly why his son would have been at the park.
For the most part, though, Monday was about remembrance.
Those present spoke of a kind and gentle soul, not known for getting into trouble, a young man due to graduate this spring from Manual Career Technical Center.
To friends, he was a loyal confidant, quick to offer bus fare to a friend in need.
“We called him ‘Frog,’ ” said one friend, before tears forced him to stop.
To his family, he was known for his dimples, his good manners and his curiosity. From a young age, said his aunt Ashlee McBride, he read the encyclopedia for fun. He also loved the National Geographic channel. He would run in search of a family member after watching to share his new collection of knowledge.
“He’d tell us about all the species of animals and stuff like that,” McBride said.
His parents had made a point to push academics, said his father. His son’s efforts in school had motivated Haji Williams to attend college later in life.
Already, father and son had begun planning possible next steps. They’d talk about the military, maybe the Marines, where Asaan’s strong will and fondness for travel figured to make him a natural fit.
“I always told him he’d make a great soldier,” Haji Williams said, “if that’s what he wanted to do.”
Instead, on Monday night, the father was sticking a white cross into the ground at the spot where his son was shot.
During the hourlong vigil, those who spoke — from pastors to friends to City Councilman Jermaine Reed — urged anyone with information to come forward. They shared memories. They urged peace.
Afterward, the group released balloons into the sky in remembrance.
Monday night at the park, there was little evidence of the tragic event that had played out three days before. As the sun began to set, children played near a picnic table. Others shot baskets at a nearby goal, enjoying the 70-degree temperatures. Neighborhood residents walked past or watched the vigil from their porches.
The spot where Williams was shot faces a long row of houses — occupied by an untold number of potential witnesses.
And yet, the case remains unsolved.
Still, the family is remaining hopeful that somehow, justice will be done.
“Somebody knows something,” Haji Williams said.
“It would make me feel better if somebody could tell me what happened so I could sleep at night.”