The senseless and heartbreaking killing of 6-year-old Angel Hooper in October prompted an extraordinary effort by police and the community to find her killer.
That work paid off in November with the arrests of two young men now charged in connection with the drive-by shooting that took the Kansas City girl’s life outside a south Kansas City convenience store.
But police weren’t done.
On Tuesday, the Kansas City No Violence Alliance sent teams of officers to arrest members of criminal groups responsible for violent crimes in the area of south Kansas City where Angel died.
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As part of the effort, dubbed Operation Halo, they also passed out cards bearing this message: “We will not stand by as the children of our community are gunned down.”
Tuesday’s operation involved about 60 police officers and federal agents seeking 22 individuals wanted on various charges, said Kansas City Police Maj. Joe McHale, project director of KC NoVa.
Though he would not say if any of the targets was directly associated with Angel’s alleged killers, McHale described them as members of several groups involved in numerous recent violent acts.
The operation resulted in 17 arrests for various state and city warrants. In addition, two residences linked to members of the groups were posted as being uninhabitable because of code violations.
Accompanying officers Tuesday were several members of Mothers in Charge, a group of women who have lost children to homicide.
Rosilyn Temple, whose son Antonio Thompson was killed in 2011, said she doesn’t want any other mother to go through what she has.
“No mother deserves to have to bury her child,” Temple said.
Temple and the other mothers talked to residents in the areas that police targeted, encouraging residents to report criminal activity and to take back their neighborhoods and homes.
At one home in central Kansas City, Officers Anthony Watt and Brandon Bray didn’t find the person they were seeking. But when the person’s grandmother tearfully told them of the recent death of her grandson in a traffic wreck, the officers comforted her and had Temple and the other mothers come talk to her.
Besides making arrests, officers involved in the operation were tasked with “messaging” people they contacted. That message involved providing information about social services available to help them escape the criminal lifestyle.
It came with a warning that continuing to engage in crime would bring the kind of enforcement actions targeting them and their associates.
That two-tiered approach is at the heart of KC NoVa’s strategy of focused deterrence to reduce violent crimes, specifically homicides. With the help of professors at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, KC NoVa identifies violent criminals and maps their connections to other individuals. Law enforcement efforts focus on those groups.
Tuesday’s operation was KC NoVa’s second in two weeks targeting criminal groups.
On Dec. 9, officers arrested more than 50 people connected to a criminal group centered along the Independence Avenue corridor.
Angel Hooper was with her father leaving the 7-Eleven at 107th Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard on Oct. 17 when someone in a passing car fired multiple gunshots toward the store. She was the only person hit.
McHale said that efforts like the operation Tuesday will be ongoing “so we can prevent another incident like the one at 107th and Blue Ridge.”