KC mayor calls 3 shooting deaths in less than 5 hours ‘an epidemic.’ A tragic one

Three people killed in shootings in a span of less than five hours is a continued uptick of violence that Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas on Thursday called “astonishing and heartbreaking.”

Police continued their investigations of the fatal shootings of two men and a woman that occurred between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in separate neighborhoods on the east side of Kansas City.

On Thursday, Lucas noted that firearms were used in each of the killings.

“I think people need to understand that this is an epidemic; it is a tragic one in Kansas City,” Lucas said. “And that all of the other issues that we work on, from economic development to recreation, don’t matter unless we get our hands around this...”

None of the shootings appeared to be related. No arrests have been made and limited suspect information has been released.

The first shooting victim, Michael K. Jones, 44, was found just after 3 p.m. when officers were called to 5200 block of Olive Street. Arriving officers found Jones lying in the street.

Witnesses told police they called 911 after hearing a rapid series of gunshots. They looked outside and saw the shooting victim.

A black pickup truck with several people inside was seen driving west on 53rd Street after the shooting, police said.

Paramedics arrived at the scene and pronounced Jones dead from gunshot wounds.

The second victim

Just before 6 p.m., police responding to another shooting call in the 3200 block of Brighton Avenue were directed to a McDonald’s restaurant, a short distance away.

Once there, officers found Kimberly Harris, 37, had been fatally shot. Witnesses told police Harris was driven less than a mile away from the shooting.

Detectives spoke to the driver of the vehicle and canvassed for witnesses back on Brighton Avenue to find out what led up to the shooting.

“Although we hope there is no violent crime, we have plenty of detectives investigators and officers to investigate and follow up on leads,” said Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a police spokesman.

“As always we need the public’s help in these cases. There’s three $25,000 rewards for information in these cases,” Becchina said.

Kansas City police have investigated 428 nonfatal shootings so far in 2019. There were 380 non-fatal shooting victims reported during the same period a year ago.

Lucas said the need in Kansas city is to get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

“I think sometimes we get too used to it,” he said. “We get too used to hearing about these incidents and if they are not in a part of town that surprises us then we kind of keep things moving.”

Police found the third victim, Xavier Young, 18, just after 7 p.m., lying on the front porch of a house near 24th Street and Chelsea Avenue.

Responding officers rendered aid and called emergency crews, but Young was pronounced dead at the scene.

Too many young victims

The deadly shootings Wednesday marked 127 homicides reported in Kansas City in 2019, according to data kept by The Star, which includes fatal officer-involved shootings. There were 123 homicides by this time last year.

Damon Daniel, president of the AdHoc Group Against Crime, noted that 34% of the current homicides in 2019 were victims under the age of 24.

“Our youth need mentors, and access to the kind of opportunities that unlock the creative and entrepreneurial minds that exist in many of the neighborhoods plagued by violence,” Daniel said.

At the same time, Daniel said those who are returning to society from incarceration need a second chance. Employment and affordable housing must be available for them, he said.

“We can not hold law enforcement accountable for solving crimes if we refuse to cooperate,” Daniel said. “However, we must protect those who do cooperate, and therefore must hold law enforcement accountable for their protection.”

Since being elected mayor, Lucas has met with Gov. Mike Parson and Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith to discuss ways to reduce crime and gun violence. His office also has proposed measures to keep firearms out of the hands of juvenile offenders and those accused of domestic violence.

Lucas said he wants to dedicate more money to hiring permanent social workers for the Police Department and trauma treatment for nonfatal shooting victims.

“We have spent a lot of money fighting crime in our community. I think we need to make sure that it is being well spent and it is going into positions that are making a real change and not just positions at City Hall and to folks who don’t know what the mission is about.” he said.

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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.