Bloody August frustrates city as mayor decries ‘People doing crazy things’

The first four days of a bloody August in Kansas City had already counted six dead or dying and 22 more people wounded by 4 a.m. Sunday.

But a city exhausted by gunfire had one more, outlandish round to go.

Three men were charged Monday for what they described to police as a drunken barrage of gunfire in the backyard of a home near 59th Street and Swope Parkway.

Neighbors reported hearing between 80 and 100 rounds. Police rushing to the scene thought they were being fired on and returned gunfire. Tactical teams surrounded the house for several hours before the three men surrendered one by one.

Mayor Sly James vented his frustration over the terrifying weekend after an appearance Monday morning at the Kansas City Central Library. The police are trying. The city is trying, he said.

““If we knew what to do today or this week (to reduce the gun violence), we would have been doing it last week or yesterday,” James said. “How do you control indiscriminate acts of violence in places where you don’t know they’re going to happen?”

”But you just have people doing crazy things,” he said.

The men who surrendered to police Sunday each told detectives they had been drinking before they emptied several magazines worth of ammunition, police said. A search warrant for the house led also to the discovery of some 26 pounds of marijuana, court records showed.

Fidel A. Carmona, 29, Juan Carlos Cuevas-Alvarez, 32, and Diego Torres-Infante, 24, were all charged with unlawful use of a weapon while intoxicated. Cuevas-Alvarez was also charged with delivering marijuana and having a gun while in possession of marijuana.

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Fidel A. Carmona, left, Juan Carlos Cuevas-Alvarez, and Diego Torres-Infante were charged Aug. 6, 2018, in a gunfire case that resulted in Kansas City police returning fire. Jackson County Detention Center

At a late afternoon press conference with Police Chief Rick Smith in his City Hall office, James recounted the all-too-familiar litany of issues fueling the bloodshed: absence of laws requiring licensing, training or background checks for those acquiring firearms; no requirement for reporting stolen guns; the grinding hopelessness produced by poverty, and the lack of early childhood education that would plant the seeds of conflict resolution skills in 4-year-old and 5-year-old children.

James said he’s had countless meetings with lawmakers in the rural-dominated state legislature to press for change. There is no progress for one reason, he said.

“Because of political ideology. That’s what we’re talking about,” James said. “There’s this mantra of Second Amendment above all else, free guns for everybody...We have to change that. I can’t change it alone.”

Given the futility of lobbying, James said, he would consider trying to mobilize on a large scale, with numbers that showed “some mass behind the ask.”

Bernice Brown, 43, was killed Wednesday afternoon while trying to break up fight involving her son. Later that afternoon Xindong Hao, 38, was killed when a man police say was on PCP killed him with a shotgun. Tyrone Standifer, 54, was found fatally shot Thursday in a vehicle with a wounded man. Two women, not yet identified, were found dead in separate crime scenes early Sunday morning brought the death toll to five.

But then, Monday afternoon, police announced that a man shot late Saturday night near 39th Street and Chelsea Avenue had succumbed to his wounds, bringing the toll to six.

The number of killings and shootings in 2018 is less so far than 2017, but last year, when 150 people were killed, was Kansas City’s most violent year since the crack-gang-fueled violence of the early 1990s.

The 74 homicides so far in 2018 puts Kansas City on pace for some 120 killings this year. So far this year, 272 people have been wounded by shootings, which is down from 302 at this point a year ago, police records show.

But the 23 victims in the first five days of August compares to nine victims over the same span a year ago.

Police are working these cases hard, and they are looking for the community’s help, Kansas City Police Sgt. Jacob Becchina said Monday.

Come forward with information, no matter how small, he urged the public.

“Because every time you don’t, “ he said, “it allows a violent offender to walk around free on the streets.”

The work goes on, Becchina and James both said, with police investigating the crimes that have occurred while collaborative efforts continue trying to intercept the anger and violence before it happens.

But school education programs, social services, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance — NoVa — and other efforts seemingly fall short.

“We know we have a culture of violence, of people with weapons, and they use them indiscriminately and there’s nothing we can do to take the weapons out of their hands or stop them from getting them,” James said.

James said he was considering making another attempt at passing some kind of local gun legislation, even though it would be preempted by state law and likely antagonize some rural legislators who are not supportive of the city, he said.

“I think it might be interesting to see just what happens if we tried,” he said.

Police investigators “will work with witnesses,” Becchina said. “They will work with victims and they will work with the evidence to their entirety to bring justice to those victims and to those responsible to justice so that they are no longer walking on the streets.”

The Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers provides ways for people to provide anonymous information and offers rewards. Call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).

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