The day after a teenage girl was gunned down as she left a high school basketball game, Kansas City Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell called for the community to step up and stop the gun violence.
“We need help,” Bedell said. “And I’ve asked for this help multiple times because these shootings aren’t a KCPS problem. These kids bringing guns to school districts, that’s not a school district’s problem. That’s a community problem.”
Bedell spoke at a news conference Wednesday morning, after 15-year-old An’Janique Wright was shot and killed about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday outside the Central Academy of Excellence at 3221 Indiana Avenue.
An’Janique was among two groups of people who had gotten into an argument during the basketball game and were escorted out separately.
She was apparently shot by someone lying in wait outside.
The shooting unfolded even though the district had a “tremendous amount of security” at the game, Bedell said. That included the district’s security and armed patrol officers, student resource officers and off-duty police officers.
Kansas City police announced Wednesday afternoon that two persons of interest in the shooting were taken into custody about 2:30 p.m. Police said those people would not be identified until charges were filed.
Meanwhile, friends and family members gathered at the high school Wednesday afternoon for a balloon release in honor of An’Janique.
Her twin sister, Angelique Wright, said they met up at the game Tuesday night and were happy to see each other because they hadn’t been together for three weeks.
They were hugging when a group of girls approached and started telling her sister to go outside to fight. That group of girls had attacked Angelique Wright a couple of months ago, she said.
The twins tried to focus on talking with each other.
“We were trying to get our hugs in,” Angelique said.
Soon after, An’Janique became involved in an argument with the group of girls and a security officer stepped in, telling all the girls that they had to leave. Angelique Wright said she and her sister wanted to stay and watch the game, but security wanted them out of the building.
“He put all of us out of the building,” Angelique said. “When we got out there, there was a van parked out front. Somebody got out of the car and my sister said, ‘She got something. She got something.’ A minute later, a couple shots.”
Angelique and some students later at the balloon release said there should have been something done to stop the altercation before the shooting started.
“What did you think they were going to do? Shoot water guns? Play tag?,” Angelique said.
“They (security) weren’t worried once they put us on the outside. Once they put us outside, we weren’t their concern no more. They were only worried about the people inside that game. Everybody’s life matters. And my sister’s life mattered,” she said.
Angelique said the loss of her sister will be hard to get through. Her sister was a loving, intelligent person, she said.
“We lost a beautiful young lady,” Angelique said. “We didn’t expect this for her. We didn’t expect this.”
The girls’ mother, Antonique James, said her daughter was a good kid who made straight As. She didn’t deserve to die like this, James said.
“Put down the guns man,” James said. “It’s not even worth it.”
An’Janique’s foster brother Terrion Hudson said there’s a lot the community could do to stop senseless killings. But he sees no hope in that happening.
“No matter how much they say they believe in us, they want to help us, no one is actually standing up, stepping out and helping,” he said. “So, nothing is actually changing.”
Mayor Sly James issued a statement Wednesday pointing to the easy access to guns as one reason such killings continue. More than 50 children and teenagers have been killed with guns in the Kansas City area since 2016.
“Until we elect leaders who have the political will to pass common sense gun laws that allow us to do what needs to be done to get guns off the streets and keep them out of the hands of those who would do harm, nothing will change,” James said.
An’Janique had attended a school in the Kansas City school district last year but was not currently enrolled at Central, according to Bedell, the schools superintendent. The reason why she wasn’t enrolled was unclear, and he said his staff was looking into it.
Bedell had been at the game himself, with his 7-year-old daughter, but left minutes before the shooting to attend another game.
Within two minutes of leaving, he received a phone call telling him that someone had been shot in the parking lot. The shooting, he said, had nothing to do with the school.
“It is very disheartening as a superintendent,” Bedell said. “Here we are, we are trying to advance this school district, we had a positive press conference last Friday about the progress we are making and I have to now have a press conference about things that are beyond the control of a school district.”
Bedell said he hoped that the community hasn’t gotten to the point where people’s hearts have become callous and cold to the impact of these senseless killings.
“It’s just becoming too common,” Bedell said. “How do you expect a kid to come and learn under these kind of conditions?”
The district is committed to the safety, security and well-being of its students, Bedell said. He added that he wants visitors and staff members to believe that the district is a safe environment for them to come to.
That includes having procedures in place to remove people from a venue if they get into arguments.
“They are to get off our campus,” Bedell said. “Once we get them off of our campuses, we’ve done what our policy dictates what we need to do.”
Bedell said he thinks the district’s policies were followed.
“KCPS cannot cure the illness of gun violence by itself,” Bedell said. “We can only try to lessen the bleeding. The cure will have to be developed by the entire community working together.”