Crime

‘A public safety crisis.’ Entertainment districts struggle to address gun violence.

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 drive-by shooting that killed Austin Michael Quijas and Leo Moreno Jr. near the Power & Light District in Downtown Kansas City came on the heels of a string of shootings in populated entertainment districts this summer.

The shootings at the Crossroads, Westport and near the Country Club Plaza and the Power & Light District have opened questions about gun violence and security in the city.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the use of guns in conflict resolution is a major contributor to the violence.

“The problem is that we have folks that are acting with impunity and solving conflicts that should not be solved with firearms,” Lucas said.

Neighbors on Sunday expressed concern over safety in the area.

Bill Mallek, who lives at One Light Luxury Apartments, found police officers outside when he woke up early Sunday morning to walk his dog. Mallek, who moved to Kansas City in January, said no one was ever shot on his street when he lived in New York City’s Manhattan borough or in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood.

Mallek had hoped the shooting in the Crossroads, which occurred near his workplace, was an anomaly. If nearby shootings become a pattern, he said, he and his wife may have to move to another part of the city.

“I’m hoping this is kind of another anomaly,” Mallek said. “It’s a little scary.”

While shootings in highly populated areas such as downtown draw a lot of attention, Lucas said gun violence is not simply a “downtown issue” but affects a number of parts of the city.

“The fact that we’re looking at 300 plus shootings this year in Kansas City ... is the public safety issue, I think that’s a public safety crisis,” Lucas said. “The biggest threat is that you, or I, or anyone could be walking down the street and become a victim of one of these tragedies.”

Shootings in entertainment districts

Westport took a step toward preventing gun violence when it added metal detectors and security screening to the bar district in 2018 after multiple late night shootings in the area.

In June, however, a man was shot multiple times near a parking garage just outside the secured area about 3 a.m. after security personnel had left the area.

Less than two months later, a 25-year-old woman was struck and killed by a stray bullet while she waited in line at a food truck during a First Friday event in the Crossroads.

Two weeks later, four teens were injured in a shooting inside a room at the Sheraton Suites Country Club Plaza Hotel. Witnesses told police the shooting stemmed from an argument among a gathering of teens in the room.

Following Sunday’s shooting, the Power and Light District said in a statement that they were “following the lead of the Kansas City Police Department” in the investigation.

“We are saddened by the incident that occurred north of our district overnight,” the statement said. “The safety and security of our residents and patrons is our highest priority.”

Struggling for solutions to gun violence

Police said they believed Sunday morning’s shooting near the Power & Light district was likely not random. Police, however, said detectives did not know the cause of the shooting.

After multiple shootings occurred across the city during his first week in office, Lucas announced ordinances to keep guns out of the hands of minors in an effort to reduce gun violence.

He acknowledged Sunday that no plan to reduce gun violence is perfect. But he said it is more important to do something quickly than to get caught up looking for the perfect answer.

“There is no magic single solution, but what there will be is a plethora of different ideas,” Lucas said. “What we can’t do is lose energy and what we cannot do is get so paralyzed by our need to analyze these issues so deeply that we’re not actually recognizing the tragedies that there are each day.”

Lucas said he plans to use “almost every resource that we have available” to find immediate solutions.

The killings Sunday marked the 94th and 95th homicides in Kansas City this year. By this time in 2018, there had been 94 homicides in a year that ended with 143, according to data kept by The Star.

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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.
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