At candlelight vigil for Ta'Ron Carson, community demands justice

Once you've met him, you never forgot him.

That was how one friend described Ta'Ron M. Carson at a Tuesday night candlelight vigil, two days after Carson was shot and killed after leaving a dance club in Midtown.

Others spoke of his warmth and humor, describing a 24-year-old who was always the star of the show, from his high school days as a prom king to the household he set up as an adult, inviting such a diverse cast of characters into his home that one friend called it a circus.

His parents spoke of accepting Carson for who he was and their amazement at the large number of people who came to celebrate his life Tuesday evening at the Center for Spiritual Living at 1014 W 39th St.

More than 100 people took seats in the audience while others spilled out the front doors. After the family's comments, the group walked to the nearby CVS store at 39th and Main streets near where Carson was shot.

The investigation into Carson's killing was ongoing Tuesday night and no arrests had been announced. For days, friends feared Carson — who was also called Rio — had been killed because he was gay, but Kansas City police said Tuesday that they think he was not the intended target of the shooting.

During the vigil, the Police Department announced that a vehicle that investigators had been searching for is no longer being sought.

Carson's parents, Monique Carson and Tarik Hopkins, told the crowd that they had always encouraged Carson to be himself and they were happy to see how he touched so many people's lives.

"Who you love is nobody's damn business, as long as they love you," the father remembered telling his son. All that mattered, he said, was to treat people right. "And he did that."

"It hurt so bad," seeing how Carson had been killed, his father said. But he was proud of how Carson lived.

Carson was gunned down about 3 a.m. Sunday after leaving Aura, a dance club on Main Street near 39th Street. Friends with him were not aware of any conflicts or concerns when he left.

Carson worked for Chipotle Mexican Grill in the Power & Light District. He was also a makeup artist at Sephora.

D. Rashaan Gilmore, a friend of Carson who helped organize the vigil, said the community would be watching to make sure justice is done.

"This is a show of love and solidarity that I think Rio would be proud of," Gilmore said. "You have a responsibility when you walk out of these doors. The responsibility is to remain vigilant. We're going to stay on top of the police department. There will be no sweeping under the rug, no cold-casing this one."

After an arrest is made, Gilmore said, the community will also follow the case in the courts to make sure the "full weight" of the justice system falls on whoever shot Carson.

Police said Tuesday that they hoped to locate a suspect in the shooting soon.

Ian Cummings: 816-234-4633, @Ian__Cummings