Crime

‘It’s hard to swallow’: Man killed in Kansas City was released from jail days earlier

Kansas City police investigate fatal shooting on Olive Street

Kansas City Officer Darin Snapp said a male victim was found with gunshot wounds on Olive Street about 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, 2019 after gunfire was heard in the area. The victim was taken to a hospital where he died.
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Kansas City Officer Darin Snapp said a male victim was found with gunshot wounds on Olive Street about 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 19, 2019 after gunfire was heard in the area. The victim was taken to a hospital where he died.

Andrea Lewis did not worry about her son when he was in jail.

She has watched news reports about killings in Kansas City, which in recent years has had one of the highest homicide rates per capita in the country. She was more at ease when she knew where her son was.

But her 27-year-old son, Maurice Jennings, was gunned down April 19 in the 3400 block of Olive Street near Prospect Avenue, just a week after he was released.

Lewis screamed when she learned about the shooting.

“It’s hard to swallow,” she said.

Officers were a couple blocks away when they heard shots fired in the area about 8:30 p.m. that Friday. Jennings was found in the street suffering from several gunshot wounds, according to Officer Darin Snapp, a Kansas City Police Department spokesman. 

Jennings died at a hospital, marking the 42nd homicide this year in Kansas City.

Before he was killed, he had been in jail pending a burglary charge stemming from a domestic dispute during which he threw a chair. 

He was released from jail after he pleaded guilty to first-degree burglary and was put on probation.

Judge Charles McKenzie ordered Jennings to complete an anger management program and follow directions from his probation officer. He was also ordered to have no contact with the victim, according to Jackson County court documents.

Jennings’ defense attorney, John Humphrey, texted Jennings after he was placed on probation to tell him to keep in touch and call if he had any issues. 

When reached by a Star reporter Tuesday, Humphrey was shocked to learn Jennings had been killed. 

“Oh my God,” he said. “I’m just sick.”

Jennings, a father of four children ages 4 to 7, was getting his life together, Humphrey said. He had “a lot of heart and a lot of promise.” 

Lewis had not see her son’s body before Tuesday, when she visited a funeral home. Seeing him lying there was difficult, she said.

Family members said that, while Jennings had his problems, he had hopes and dreams and was loved by his relatives, who called him “Bear” since he was a child. He was set to start a job soon as a landscaper with the city, his mother said.

One of Jennings’ sisters, Breeann Roddy, woke up to 19 missed calls after the shooting, she said. A family member broke the news saying: “Bear gone.”

Roddy recalled the times Jennings was there for her when she had a premature child in 2009; he visited her at the hospital and during surgeries. He had her back and she had his, Jennings’ older sister said.

Roddy and her husband planned to open a business selling cars and hoped to employ Jennings, who loved fixing vehicles, she said. Now, once they get their dealer’s license, the couple plans to leave Kansas City.

Maybe they will head to Texas, Roddy thought Tuesday, hours after police identified her brother as the man killed.

“I can’t deal with this here,” she said.

Police have not released any suspect information or a motive for the shooting. Asked what she would tell her son’s killer if she could, Lewis responded: “I just want to know why.”

Roddy regretted not being there more for her brother, who left behind three sisters and four brothers, she said. But it was too late, she said, to think about “the should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.”

Family members hope the shooter comes forward.

“I just want justice,” Roddy said.

Kansas City police have asked anyone with information about the killing to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477.

The city has recorded 44 homicides this year. By this time last year, police counted 40 homicides and reached 137 by the end of 2018.

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