Volunteers and police canvass neighborhood where 8-year-old boy was shot and killed
Volunteers took to the streets Tuesday to canvass the neighborhood where an 8-year-old boy was fatally shot while he slept in his bed Saturday in Kansas City, hoping to encourage anyone with information to come forward.
“Let’s get this person off the streets now,” Bishop Tony Caldwell told a group of more than 30 people gathered outside the child’s home. “Let’s go get a killer.”
Brian Bartlett was killed as he slept about 11:30 p.m. when more than 30 bullets ripped through his mother’s home in the 8300 block of Tracy Avenue, making him the youngest homicide victim this year in Kansas City to die by gunfire. He was weeks away from his ninth birthday.
The shooting also sent Brian’s mother to a hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg. She was expected to survive, police said.
Investigators have no suspect information, police said. The motive for the shooting is unknown.
Standing among the group Tuesday, Deputy Chief Roger Lewis of the Kansas City Police Department said detectives do not have a “great number” of leads. He said investigators will take any and all leads, no matter how insignificant a tipster may think they are.
Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a police department spokesman, said detectives were working to identify a vehicle used in the drive-by shooting. Investigators think the boy was not the intended target, he said.
The bishop said the boy’s killing was a “tragedy unheard of.” He urged anyone with information who may not want to call the police to tell someone else who could, saying those who heard or saw anything had a responsibility to tell.
“When it comes to babies’ lives, this is not part of the game that we talk about on the streets,” Caldwell said. “That baby did not ask for this.”
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker assured anyone afraid of coming forward that officials would work to protect them.
Some of those who canvassed held signs to remind the public that the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission has increased the reward offered for tips that lead to arrests to $25,000.
Kassandra Mason, whose nephew lives near the house where Brian was killed, said she was not concerned about the money. The killing of an innocent child should be enough, she said.
“How do you sleep at night knowing a child has lost their life, and you know something, and you have not stepped forward?” she said.
At Center Elementary, where Brian was to enter the fourth grade, his teachers remembered him as a kind student who enjoyed learning math. As a member of the robotics team, Brian might have grown up to be a scientist or engineer, one educator guessed.
Sitting outside the home Tuesday were candles, flowers and a letter that called Brian “an angel in the sky in a much better place, in the arms of Jesus.” There was also a Spider-Man lunchbox and a toy truck.
Among the crowd Tuesday was Ron Hunt, who wore two buttons on his shirt that showed the faces of 8-year-old Montell Ross and his 9-year-old cousin Jayden Ugwuh. The boys were playing video games three years ago when a barrage of 20 gunshots hit their home in the 5700 block of College Avenue, killing them.
Their killings remain unsolved.
“Babies are losing their lives,” Caldwell told the crowd. “Enough is enough on our streets.”
Brian’s death marked Kansas City’s 90th homicide of the year, according to The Star’s data, which includes police shootings. By that time last year, the city had recorded 85 homicides in a year that ended with 143.
When Yolonda Marshall, 48, of Kansas City, heard about Brian’s death, her “whole stomach dropped,” she said. She couldn’t imagine waking up and not getting her child ready for school.
Marshall, with the Justice and Dignity Center, came out to encourage people to call in tips because she has three daughters, one Brian’s age. She has also lost a loved one to violence. Her mother, Fathyma Vann, was murdered by a serial killer in 1991 in California.
Brian’s mother had planned to take him to get a backpack Sunday, Baker, the prosecutor, has said. That broke the heart of Monica Roberts, who works with children of homicide victims as the founder of Healing Pathway Victim Service Agency.
“He will never have that opportunity,” she said. “That opportunity ended in gunfire.”
Roberts added: “It makes me sick to know that we are losing so many kids.”
Police asked anyone with information to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).