‘Heartbreaking’: 8-year-old killed, mother injured in KC home sprayed with bullets

Frustrated neighbors in south Kansas City shed tears Sunday morning after a nearby home was sprayed with bullets, killing an 8-year-old boy and seriously injuring his mother.

“It’s just gotta stop,” said one neighbor, who declined to be identified because the shooter had not been caught. “That’s just terrible. It’s just gotta stop.”

The gunfire erupted about 11:30 p.m. Saturday at a home in the 8300 block of Tracy Avenue, police said. The woman and her child, who was asleep in his bed, were shot when their home was riddled with about two dozen bullets.

They were rushed to hospitals. The boy, who has not been identified, was pronounced dead. His mother remained hospitalized Sunday with a gunshot wound to the leg. She was in serious but stable condition, police said.

Police said they did not know the motive for the shooting. No arrests have been made and no suspect information was released.

Investigators identified dozens of bullet holes on the side and front of the house.

The child was the youngest homicide victim this year in Kansas City, according to data kept by The Star. He was one of at least five people under the age of 16 slain this year in the city, according to Kansas City Police Department data.

The boy’s killing marked Kansas City’s 90th homicide of the year, according to The Star’s data, which includes police shootings. By this time last year, police had recorded 85 homicides in a year that ended with 143.

In a statement on Twitter, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said the young boy was killed while he slept in bed.

Baker said the child was exceptionally bright, loved playing with LEGOs and was excited about the start of school. His mother, the prosecutor said, had planned to take him to get a backpack Sunday.

“I know we are tired, even exasperated but we must also feel the outrage over this little boy’s death,” Baker said. “His short life ended and all of his future contributions to this community are gone too.”

Baker added: “Justice must not be denied!”

Donald Martin, 85, of Kansas City, said he rented out the Tracy Avenue house to the woman for the last year. Before then, he said, she was previously homeless.

Martin described the boy as a “nice little kid.” His mother would walk her son to school, the landlord said. He called her a good mother.

“I know she loved her kid,” Martin said. “That was her whole life.”

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas was in church Sunday morning when he learned about the shooting. Lucas said it “kind of shook me a little more than most do” and made him tearful, saying he has visited children at schools and seen their promise.

“It’s almost unconscionable for me,” Lucas said. “When you hear about this, it really kind of stops you in your tracks.”

Lucas on Thursday introduced two ordinances that, if passed, would effectively ban minors from possessing handguns and give police the opportunity to get the guns off the streets. In an interview Sunday, Lucas also mentioned the need for conflict resolution, but noted there was not one magic-wand solution to preventing violence.

“If we can’t keep a child safe in our community, then we’re not doing what we’re supposed to do,” Lucas said. “This is a total travesty to me, piling on top of a lot of others.”

The child was the 11th person slain in the city in the last two weeks. That includes the death of 25-year-old Erin Langhofer, whose fatal shooting in the Crossroads Arts District during a public event brought renewed calls to end the city’s gun violence.

In a statement on Twitter, Jackson County Sheriff Darryl Forté shared a photograph of the road flares used by police officers while investigating the recent shooting on Tracy Avenue.

He wrote: “Let’s do all we can to assist those who are on the wrong path, provide assistance to law enforcement and reduce the pain suffered by families and friends of those who have been killed or injured.”

Kansas Citians expressed outrage in posts on social media. They also responded to the mayor on Twitter.

“No! Not again,” one wrote.

“This makes me ill,” another said.

In the neighborhood where the child was shot Saturday night, one man said he heard about 30 gunshots but didn’t think much of it at the time because gunfire is common in the area. He thought it was someone emptying a clip into the air or ground, he said.

Then the neighbor saw police respond.

“It’s just terrible,” the man said.

He didn’t know the woman or the child, he said, but had seen them walking in the neighborhood from time to time. Because of the shooting, he said, he might consider moving.

“It’s kind of scary,” he said.

Another neighbor said she was in bed when she heard what she thought was a pack of fireworks going off — possibly someone celebrating the Kansas City Chiefs’ preseason victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, she thought.

But sirens soon followed.

“It’s heartbreaking because he was just a kid,” said the neighbor as tears rolled down her face. “My thoughts go out to the family.”

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.
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.