Kansas City leaders reacted with shock and outrage Saturday after an early morning shooting took the lives of two more of the city’s children.
Two boys, one 8 and the other 9, died after being shot early Saturday near 58th Street and College Avenue. Police did not release their names, or the name of a teenage girl wounded in the attack.
The boys’ deaths were the city’s 66th and 67th homicides of the year, the highest number recorded by this time of year in seven years in Kansas City. They may touch off another round of soul-searching in a city where gunfire now has killed four juveniles in just the last six months.
“I’m just really tired of hearing about kids getting killed,” Mayor Sly James said Saturday afternoon. “You’ve got people with guns who don’t care who’s at the end of the bullet.”
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Rosilyn Temple, president of the local chapter of a crime victims’ advocacy group called Mothers in Charge, spent the early morning hours at the scene of the carnage.
“They did not have a chance,” Temple said, referring to the young victims. “They were defenseless, and they needed us as a community to support them, to take care of them and to protect them. At this moment, we have failed.”
The shootings took place about 1:30 a.m. Saturday in the 5700 block of College. Police investigators spent the rest of the night and early daylight hours scouring the scene for evidence, but they did not name a suspect or suspects by Saturday evening.
Relatives and friends of the children took to social media to express their condolences and concerns. Based on those comments, it appears the two boys were related, as are their mothers.
The boys were familiar to neighbors along the block who often saw them playing with other children, including the grandson of neighbor Ruthie Johnson.
It’s not a neighborhood used to trouble, said Johnson, who has lived there since 1971. Gunshots are not frequently heard.
Alvin Brooks, a member of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners, said he had not received any new details about the shooting as of Saturday afternoon.
“I’m just baffled as to why anyone would take the lives of two little boys,” he said. “It’s horrible, it’s sickening. These are babies.”
A man whose name appeared in listings for the home’s address told The Star he had not lived there for several months, but knew the mother of at least one victim. He said he was not related to the boys.
A woman who lives nearby said the house often was crowded. “They kept a lot of company,” she said. “A lot of adults, a lot of kids.”
The neighbor said she saw a group of five or six boys “shadow boxing” under a streetlight at 58th and College late Friday evening. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said she heard someone come out of a house to warn the boys that someone with a shotgun might be on the way to the neighborhood.
At that point, the woman went inside her home. She said she heard nothing else until shots rang out.
“It’s crazy madness,” the woman said. “You hear gunshots, you hope they don’t come to your home.”
The gunshots — six to 10 of them — woke up Antonio and Latisha Reese, a young couple with two daughters. It was the first time they had heard that sound since they moved in more than a year ago.
“We didn’t know what happened,” Antonio said. “It’s very troubling.”
The couple didn’t know the boys by name but sometimes saw them playing outside.
One boy was declared dead after reaching the hospital. The second boy died later at the hospital, police said.
The third victim, a 16-year old girl, was expected to survive her injuries.
The killings aren’t the first violent deaths in the immediate neighborhood. In 2013, two men were killed in a hail of gunfire at a street party just a few yards south of Saturday’s murders. At the time authorities said the incident was prompted by a minor traffic accident.
Saturday’s shootings mark the third time this year children in Kansas City have died from gunfire.
In February, 15-year-old Jaiair Strong died after being shot in the chest, allegedly by another juvenile. That crime happened near U.S. 40 and Willow Road.
In June, 4-year-old Mahsaan Kelley-Wilson died after a bullet hit him as he rode in the backseat of his parents’ car near Eighth Street and the Paseo. The parents told police they got caught in the crossfire of a rolling gunbattle.
In a tweet, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker called Saturday’s killings “another senseless tragedy.”
A man working in the neighborhood Saturday morning said he lived elsewhere and could not talk about the specifics of the shootings.
“I just wish these killings would stop,” he said.
The Star’s Donna McGuire contributed to this report.