They were separated by age, gender, race and geography, but Alexis Kane and Jon Bieker shared the victimhood of violent death.
Loved ones and concerned area residents gathered at two candlelight vigils Thursday night to remember the lively 14-year-old girl and the upstanding community man.
The mood at both vigils was of intense sorrow and loss. The tone at The Bay Water Park in south Kansas City, where Alexis’ body was found Sunday, was tinged with anger.
“It is important that we realize the value in each other and stop killing one another,” said Nae-Na Oliver with the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime. “... We are responsible for each other and unless you teach your children the right way to live, we are going to continue to have murders.”
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More than 100 people attended the vigil in solidarity with and support of Alexis’ mother, LaShonda Kane, who released two heart-shaped balloons to the air. The string got caught in some flowers, causing a brief delay.
“Alexis doesn’t want to go,” said Alvin Brooks, also with the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, who has attended so many of these vigils.
Across the metro area, a more subdued scene played out in the strip-mall parking lot in front of She’s A Pistol, the Shawnee gun shop that was the scene of a bloody attempted robbery last Friday that took the life of Jon Bieker, who co-owned the business along with his wife, Becky.
In the days after the crime, which shook the close-knit downtown community, business owners organized the vigil as a way to honor Bieker and his family.
A large crowd began to gather well before the scheduled 7 p.m. start time, and volunteers stayed busy taking donations and passing out everything from self-defense key chains to coffee and water. Kevin Bennett, a lawyer at nearby Bennett, Bodine and Waters, said a few words from the bed of a pickup truck, and afterward, roughly 300 people walked with candles from the store’s parking lot to the nearby city hall.
“It’s overwhelming, it really is,” Bennett said of the turnout.
The incident at She’s A Pistol began around 2:10 p.m. last Friday when four men entered the shop in an apparent robbery attempt. A shootout erupted, leaving Jon Bieker dead and three of the assailants with injuries. All four were arrested Friday and remain in custody after being charged over the weekend with first-degree murder.
Becky Bieker, who was struck in the face during the attempted robbery, was hospitalized but released the next day.
“They spent more time in the shop than they did at home,” said Mike Saylor, an instructor at She’s A Pistol who has been in close contact with Becky Bieker since the shooting. “They were protecting their home. They were protecting their dream.”
Though police haven’t released additional details, Saylor said Thursday that Jon Bieker typically worked from an office in the back of the store, which had a video monitor so he could keep tabs on what was going on in front. He also said that the Biekers were the only two employees in the store at the time.
On Thursday night, some residents and supporters waited quietly in a line that stretched well down the block to sign a banner that, after being displayed at City Hall, will be given to Becky Bieker. Others bought T-shirts or chatted softly among themselves.
About the only time things grew animated, in fact, was when Saylor announced to the crowd that She’s A Pistol would be re-opening — though no date has yet been set.
“Becky got knocked down,” he said, to considerable cheering. “She didn’t get knocked out.”
At the vigil for Alexis, several speakers urged anyone with knowledge about her murder to come forward. People may call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477 anonymously.
“This is ridiculous,” said Maj. Karl Oakman of the Kansas City Police South Patrol. “If you don’t step up and do something, it’s only going to be a matter of time before it affects you.”
“We kill each other daily,” said Oliver of Ad Hoc. “This is our reality. No one is going to swoop in and save us. It’s up to us.”
City Councilman John Sharp, who represents the area, said contributions from himself; fellow Councilmen Scott Taylor and Scott Wagner; state Rep. Kevin McManus; and Ad Hoc had boosted the reward in the case to $6,500.
Alexis was an eighth-grader at Smith-Hale Middle School. She had two younger sisters and two younger brothers. She was remembered as someone who was personally angry and frustrated by all the violence she saw.
According to Ad Hoc, Alexis was shot to death. She was the third homicide in Kansas City so far this year.
“We don’t have to go to Iraq to go to war,” Oliver said. “We’ve got war right here in Kansas City.”