‘Unconscionable’: 7 killed in 5 days in KC as bullets fly near churches and parks

Kansas City Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas on 2019 homicides spike

Kansas City Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas spoke with reporters about the number of homicides this year after the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.
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Kansas City Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas spoke with reporters about the number of homicides this year after the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, July 9, 2019.

Seven people were killed in the last five days in Kansas City, homicides that added to a violent crime rate Mayor-elect Quinton Lucas on Tuesday called an “ongoing crisis.”

Speaking to reporters after a Board of Police Commissioners meeting, Lucas described as “unacceptable” the more than 70 homicides reported to police so far this year, a figure on pace to surpass the number of those slain last year.

“It’s been a tragic several days in Kansas City,” Lucas said. “It’s unconscionable.”

The most recent killing was reported early Tuesday morning when police responding to an ambulance call found a man with a gunshot wound lying in the grass in the Brookside area.

The body was found about 12:15 a.m. near 57th and McGee streets, just south of Brookside Park and two blocks from the Trolley Track Trail. Witnesses told police there was a disturbance before gunshots were fired.

The victim, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead shortly after. Police said they had no description of a suspect.

Once the sun rose hours later, the only remaining evidence at the scene was yellow crime scene tape tied to a no parking sign. Residents walked their dogs and took their children to Brookside Park, where one person said she was “speechless” someone was killed in her neighborhood.

The killing was being investigated as Kansas City’s 73rd homicide this year, according to data kept by The Star. By this time last year, the city recorded 62 homicides in a year that ended with 138.

Before that, the city had recorded 75 homicides by this time in 2017, which ended with 151 killings, the most in more than two decades. The least number of homicides in any year since 2000 was 81, according to police data.

Less than two hours before the killing Tuesday morning, about 10:45 p.m. Monday, officers responded to reports of shots fired in the 1400 block of East 103rd Street. There they found a crime scene near a basketball court in the parking lot behind the Evangel Church.

Charles Pelton, 18, showed up with critical injuries at a hospital after he was shot near the church, police said. He died shortly after.

It was the second tragedy for his family: Pelton’s cousin, Ki’essence Pelton, 25, was killed the day before, according to police and family members. She was shot when gunfire erupted while she was in a car near 39th Street and Myrtle Avenue.

Others slain in the last five days included Mack Jones, a 30-year-old local rapper who went missing July 2, and 48-year-old Lynn Armstrong, who was found dead in the 9300 block of Myrtle Avenue.

Detectives hoped to present a case to prosecutors this week for charges in Armstrong’s homicide, Kansas City police Sgt. Jacob Becchina said.

As police and city officials met Tuesday morning for the police board meeting, officers were called to the 2700 block of Van Brunt Boulevard for a shooting. Inside a liquor store they found a man on the floor who appeared to have been shot in the chin and possibly near the backside of his neck, according to Officer Darin Snapp, a police department spokesman.

The man told police an employee at the nearby 7-Eleven, where he also worked, shot him. A suspect was in custody.

During the police board meeting, Deputy Chief Roger Lewis said three recent homicides occurred within a 10-hour span that began Monday afternoon. He told the commissioners he believed there were three rotations in a row in which the “on-call murder squad has been pulled offline early” because they were overloaded with homicides during their shifts.

“All that does is starts the new murder squad early,” Roger added. “Once we get into that pattern, it’s very difficult to get out of.”

The department has recorded 262 nonfatal gunshot victims so far this year, Lewis said. That’s up from 229 at this same time last year.

In one gun battle during the weekend that led to a homicide, he said, 60 shell casings were recovered from nine different weapons.

Outgoing Mayor Sly James said until Missouri “pulls its head out of its ass” and changes what he called its lax gun laws, its two largest cities will be unable not get a handle on their high numbers of shootings. Kansas City and St. Louis remain among the top-five major U.S. cities with the highest rates of homicides per capita.

“The Second Amendment needs to be balanced by common sense,” James said. “We have the worst gun laws in the country. It should be no surprise that we have some of the most gun violence in the country that goes with it.”

Asked after the board meeting if enough was being done about crime, Lucas said: “Clearly not.”

“I say that as an indictment on myself,” said Lucas, who serves on City Council and will sit on the board of police commissioners once he takes office. “An indictment on all of us who are in elected office, who are in public service right now.”

Lucas said he wants to see city’s homicide rate treated as the “crisis it is,” saying city officials must work with other institutions, such as schools, on the issue.

“What we need to talk about is, ‘How can we make this city safer long-term?’” he said. “That to me is our primary issue.”

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Luke Nozicka covers local crime and federal courts for The Kansas City Star. Before joining The Star, he covered breaking news and courts for The Des Moines Register.