‘Heat doesn’t cause violence,’ but it was another bloody August in Kansas City

File illustration
File illustration Neil Nakahodo

Tarsha Seals prefers to remember her only child, Cartez Monte’ Seals, as a loving father who spent endless hours with his family and friends.

She now will also have to remember him as a homicide victim. The 28-year-old was one of five people gunned down in a 24-hour span last weekend, adding to an already bloody August.

“This world is full of crime and hatred . . . senseless murders are foolish and unfortunately they will continue to take parents from their children,” Seals said. “He is my only child. He is my everything.”

Nineteen people have been killed in Kansas City this month. That compares with 22 homicides reported in the city last August.

Several of those killings have occurred in broad daylight and in highly public locations, such as the parking lot of a community center, along a downtown street near an entertainment district, and during First Friday, a crowded outdoor street festival.

The majority were killed by gunfire.

“Violence goes up during the summer months. School is out and people are out and about,” said Ken Novak, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. “You just have more natural interactions between people. The law of averages will say the more interactions that people have in the summer, the more likely there is going to be conflict.

“The heat doesn’t cause violence,” Novak said. “It just causes people to interact with each other more often.”

Kansas City has already reached 101 homicides for the year, according to data kept by The Star, which also includes deadly police shootings. The city usually doesn’t hit the triple digits in killings until later in the year, but it often ends with more than 130.

“We’re very concerned about the homicide numbers and gun violence, generally — at all corners of our city,” said Nathan Garrett, president of Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners. “It has our near undivided attention.”

“We’re working daily to ensure the most appropriate and efficient use of our resources to address the gun violence, of which homicides are only a part — albeit a very significant one,” Garrett said.


How we did this story

The Star obtained homicide data from the Kansas City Police Department for 2016 to the present, to analyze monthly trends. Reporters also interviewed criminologists, public health officials, the governor, police leaders and relatives of homicide victims. The Star drew on its previous coverage of homicides this summer.

Police are aware of the summer trend.

Together, the months of July and August are the deadliest two-month period in Kansas City, accounting for 23 percent of the total homicides since 2016, according to data provided by the Kansas City Police Department and analyzed by The Star.

That’s more than 1 in every 5 homicides.

This year’s homicides follow that trend with 16 occurring in July and 19 in August so far.

Cartez Seals, 28, and Marcus Neal, 29, were gunned down outside the Brush Creek Community Center at Cleveland Avenue and Emanuel Cleaver II Boulevard after an altercation.

Seals was born and raised in Kansas City. He loved to fish, sing, draw, write poetry and spend time with his family and friends, his mother said. He was the father of a 9-year-old son.

A graduate of Center High School, Seals recently attended a L’Ecole Culinaire, a culinary school, with plans to become a chef. The cooking school has since closed.

“Cartez was loved by a countless number of people,” his mother said. “He had a plethora of admirers and people who knew him as humble warm and just laid-back guy.

“My son is a hero in my eyes,” Tarsha Seals said. “He was a protector and wanted to make sure his family was safe by any means.”

Jackson County prosecutors later charged Treshaun Hawkins, 17, in connection to Seals’ killing.

Other killings have been equally heart-wrenching. Two boys were among those slain.


Those included Zavien Hall, 17, who was mortally wounded Aug. 21 following an argument with a stranger outside his home at 44th Street and Cypress Avenue.

Six bullets struck his 7-year-old sister Jazmine Hall, as she played nearby.

On Aug. 11, Brian Bartlett, 8, was killed and his mother seriously injured when someone shot up their home in the 8300 block of Tracy Avenue. Both were rushed to hospitals. Brian died.

The shooters in both slayings remain at large.

Homicides are only part of the bloodshed on Kansas City’s streets. Nonfatal shootings are up compared with last year.

As of Aug. 25, there have been 45 nonfatal shootings. While that is the same number reported during the same period a year ago, the total nonfatal shootings for the year stand at 344, an increase from 295 nonfatal shootings last year.

The violence needs to be treated as a public health issue, with a holistic approach, said Rex Archer, director of the Kansas City Health Department.

“The economy is not particularly strong in many of our neighborhoods right now, which adds to the level of frustration,” Archer said. “People aren’t getting the opportunity to learn how to handle frustration in nonviolent ways, then they end up acting out.”

People need to be trained to deescalate conflicts, he said.

“Most of our conflicts and homicides are not things that the police can do anything about because they are arguments; they are domestic violence, there are a number of things occurring in situations where we have to improve the fabric of our culture and being able to communicate with each other and resolve conflict without violence,” Archer said.

Nathan Garrett, the Kansas City police board president, said the police department continues to look at different, creative ways to attack the city’s violence.

“As for the gun control suggestions, we undoubtedly have too many guns in the hands of people who don’t value life as most of us do and who settle their scores with blood, not reason,” he said.

“It’s hard to control a sub-culture that is seemingly wired in such a destructive way, but we’re set on acting on the things we can control and doing our level best to continue being flexible in thought and practice.”

Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and Mayor Quinton Lucas have both said more legislative action is needed to rid the streets of firearms that wind up in the hands of criminals.

Yet, Gov. Mike Parson has rejected the suggestion from some state lawmakers to address gun violence in an upcoming special session.

“The laws in this state have been passed and they are what they are,” Parson said in a recent interview. “From my opinion, I am always going to protect the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. I have said that and I mean that.

“But that is a whole different scenario when you are talking about criminals with those guns and everything.”

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Glenn E. Rice covers crime, courts and breaking news for The Kansas City Star, where he’s worked since 1988. Rice is a Kansas City native and a graduate of the University of Central Missouri.
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.