Nearly every Friday, Morris “Mac” Clay breezed through the doors of the Palestine Senior Activity Center and flashed a smile at the receptionist.
“Is there any catfish left for me today?” he would playfully ask.
The banter was typical of Clay, 67, who was a fixture at the senior center at 34th Street and Prospect Avenue, where he visited to play dominoes and socialize with peers.
Clay will visit the senior center no more.
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He was fatally shot about 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon as he sat on the front porch of his house at 33rd Street and Wabash Avenue.
The shooting was the first of four homicides to hit Kansas City within 48 hours, adding to an already exceptionally bloody August. At least 17 people have been killed across the city so far this month, an unusual pace in a city that typically sees about 100 to 150 homicides in a year.
Even more people have been shot but survived, as police have responded to 40 nonfatal shootings this month as of Tuesday.
“We just experienced an explosion all of sudden of diffuse violence,” said Nathan Garrett, president of Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners.
The police board has dedicated more money to hire more officers, Garrett said, but the community and churches need to work with law enforcement to find solutions.
“The idea that the police department has the answers, that is foolhardy and that is not the situation,” Garrett said.
August started off with excessive bloodshed when 17 people were shot in two days.
Police officials asked the public for help in stopping the violence only to be met with another outbreak of shootings that left eight injured and two dead on a single Saturday night on Aug. 4 and the following early morning.
Among the victims were six people shot in one incident in the 18th & Vine jazz district and a workers’ rights activist shot in the back as she tried to run to her car.
“The surge of violence is very troubling,” said Damon Daniel, president of the AdHoc Group Against Crime. “I know this sounds like a broken record … We really truly have to find a way to forgive and another way is to walk away and realize that there are real consequences to our actions especially when we decide to pull the trigger.”
As of Tuesday, the city had recorded 86 homicides in 2018, still 11 fewer than this time last year.
Morris Clay, the senior center flirt, was the 81st victim of the year.
Earlier in life, Clay had served as the sports director at KPRS-FM radio. He was instrumental in connecting the urban music station to local high school, college and professional sports.
“We have so many things going on in the city and that was one little element we felt that we needed to add to our music programming,” said Michael Carter, president of Carter Broadcast Group. “Mac was pretty much on top of all of that.”
He was also a jokester who always had something funny to say and remained popular later in life, when he became a member at the Palestine senior center, a short walk from his home.
On Tuesday, the mood remained somber among the men lounging on leather chairs near the center’s front entrance. Several seniors said they were too distraught to talk about it.
Lori Smith, Palestine’s executive director, said Clay’s death was especially troubling because of the impact it may have on other seniors who visit the center as part of their daily ritual. For some, it will be like losing a family member.
“What people don’t realize is, children and seniors are the most vulnerable populations,” Smith said. “We are like a family here and we love one another and when something happens to one of our members, it really bothers me and my staff.”
The center is planning a memorial service to allow seniors at the center to share stories and honor Clay.
Clay’s killing remains unsolved and police have not said why someone would have wanted to shoot him. The investigation continues.
Detectives are looking for a green 1999 Honda four-door with dark or tinted windows and Missouri license plate AG7 G1F.