Crime

‘He had a big heart.’ Family of men gunned down near P&L asks shooter to come forward

Two killed in a drive-by shooting at Power and Light District early Sunday

A drive-by shooting killed two men early Sunday near the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City, police said. The deadly shooting occurred about 2:15 a.m. in the 1200 block of Walnut Street.
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A drive-by shooting killed two men early Sunday near the Power & Light District in downtown Kansas City, police said. The deadly shooting occurred about 2:15 a.m. in the 1200 block of Walnut Street.

A father of one of the two men gunned down in a drive-by shooting near the Power & Light entertainment district visited the scene and was in disbelief as he struggled to understand what happened hours earlier on Sunday.

Alexander Quijas, of Kansas City, Kan., said his son 28-year-old Austin Michael Quijas was killed along with 22-year-old Leo Moreno Jr. They were cousins.

“I don’t know anything; they just called me up and said he was walking back from a bar down the street. I guess someone pulled up and started shooting at him,” Alexander Quijas said. “Shot him and his cousin.”

Moreno died on the scene, Alexander Quijas said. His son died on the way to the hospital.

“They were just having a couple of drinks down there,” he said as he nodded toward the Power & Light District. “I guess they were going to go somewhere else.”

They had parked in the area and were probably on the way to their vehicle when someone pulled up and started shooting, Alexander Quijas said.

The deadly shooting occurred about 2:15 a.m. Sunday in the 1200 block of Walnut Street. Officers working in the Power & Light District heard the shots and ran to the shooting scene. They found the two victims in front of the vacant Jenkins Music Co. building at 1217 Walnut.

Witnesses told police there was a group of people, including Quijas and Moreno, walking northbound on Walnut away from the entertainment district. A vehicle pulled up and someone inside fired shots at the group, striking the two victims.

Gunfire struck and shattered six window panels to the building. Workers from Binswanger Glass on Sunday boarded up the windows.

A preliminary investigation leads police to believe the shooting was not random. A motive, however, is not known yet. Detectives are interviewing witnesses to gather a suspect and vehicle description.

“At this point there is nothing that indicates this was random,” police spokesman Jacob Becchina told The Star. “I want to squash any concern the public might have that there is a car driving around randomly targeting groups of people walking down the street.”

Alexander Quijas said he doesn’t know who would have shot them, but he pleaded for witnesses to step forward.

“If you know anything about it, please contact police officers,” he said. “Something like this has gotta stop.”

Alexander Quijas described his son as a good kid.

“He had a big heart, and he’d take care of anybody,” he said.

Austin Quijas would spend a lot of time with his nephews, said his uncle, Carlos Quijas. Kids loved to be around him.

“One of the great things I appreciated is on his downtime, he would take his nephews to the movies, he would take them to the mall, take them to lunch,” he said. “If you met him, he’d never have a bad word to say. He was just full of life . . . He was just a joy to be around.”

His cousin was the same way, Carlos Quijas said. Family members were in disbelief over the deadly shootings.

“They just liked to have fun,” Carlos Quijas said. “They like to go places, hang out, listen to music, drink some drinks and communicate with some people. It’s sad that their lives were cut short for something so stupid.”

Austin Michael Quijas worked in the heating and cooling industry. Moreno was in graphic arts and screen printing.

“Both of our families were born and raised together,” Carlos Quijas said.

Family members were hoping that the people responsible for the killings would turn themselves in to police.

“If you have any type of conscious . . . ” Carlos Quijas said. “I don’t see why you could live with yourself knowing that you took two young kids away from us that didn’t deserve that.”

Police said there were numerous people in the vicinity of the shooting. Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477) or the Kansas City Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 816-234-5043.

There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in this case.

The shooting is being investigated as the 94th and 95th homicides in the city this year, according to data kept by The Star.

It comes just three weeks after a 25-year-old woman was struck and killed by a stray bullet near a food truck at 18th and Main streets during a First Friday event.

In the week after the shooting community members and city leaders including Mayor Quinton Lucas and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II spoke out against gun violence locally and nationally.

Lucas introduced two ordinances to City Council that would effectively ban minors in Kansas City from owning handguns.

Lucas repeated that sentiment in a tweet Sunday morning.

“Will never get used to the intolerable amount of gun violence in our city,” Lucas wrote. “I’ll keep coming up (with) proposals to stem our violence problem, even if there are critiques for each and every one.”

There have been 11 homicides in Kansas City since Erin Langhofer was shot in the Crossroads.

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Katie Bernard covers Kansas crime, cops and courts for the Kansas City Star. She joined the Star in May of 2019. Katie studied journalism and political science at the University of Kansas.
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.
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