As the families of two people killed inside Edwards Original Corner Market & Deli in Kansas City, Kansas, grieve the loss of their loved ones, they are also wrestling with troubling questions about how police handled the shooting and its aftermath.
A lack of information, combined with bad information, have only added to the heartache the two families are enduring as they try to make sense of the fatal attack, which left Dennis Edwards, the owner of the business, and Lachell Day, a longtime customer, dead.
Among the questions that must be answered: Why wasn’t Edwards’ family told that he was repeatedly stabbed during the attack? And why did police report that Day was dead when, in fact, she was still alive?
Police said the two victims died from gunshot wounds. But Edwards’ family members say he was stabbed repeatedly, apparently with his own kitchen knife. The family discovered the stab wounds while preparing for Edwards’ funeral.
An autopsy will determine Edwards’ cause of death, but if he was stabbed, why wouldn’t police provide family members with that information?
Erroneous information provided by police left Day’s family heartbroken, confused and then heartbroken again. After the double shooting on July 10, police said Day had succumbed to her injuries during the fatal encounter inside the market. On Thursday, police reported that she was alive but in critical condition. She later died.
For Day’s family, the pain of knowing that police pronounced her dead while she was still clinging to life in the market during a two-hour standoff with the suspect must be unimaginable.
The two families have questions about whether one or both victims’ lives could have been saved if law enforcement had moved more quickly to take suspect Jermelle Andre-Lamont Byers into custody.
“Why did they take so long to enter that little-bitty building?” Edwards’ niece, Christina Bennett-Smith said. “Why didn’t they go in there sooner?”
Police have said officers responded as quickly as they could.
Kansas City, Kansas police had jurisdiction in the case, but a Wyandotte County sheriff deputy’s was in the area when the call came in and arrived at the market first.
The scene was chaotic, and the suspect, who allegedly barricaded himself inside the store, was armed and dangerous. To be sure, there are no simple answers in this scenario.
But the failure to communicate crucial information to the families and the public is unacceptable. Kansas City, Kansas police blame a lack of coordination between the department’s public information office and detectives working the case — an explanation that does not excuse the multiple missteps.
Police must be upfront with crime victims’ families, and in the name of public safety, they have a duty to release accurate information in a timely manner. Law enforcement officials in Kansas City, Kansas and Wyandotte County owe the victims’ families and the public a better explanation about how they died — and how police erred.
Transparency and communication are central to police work. They failed on multiple fronts in this case.
Law enforcement officers were navigating a dangerous standoff with a gunman, making life and death decisions in real time. Broadly speaking, they deserve support and the benefit of the doubt as they put their own lives on the line.
But in the hours and days after this shooting, police have a duty to be transparent and to provide clear and correct information to victims’ families and the public.