Family of man gunned down on 71 Highway struggles to accept new reality, pleads for shooter’s arrest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Kansas City woman has endless questions, after her brother was gunned down and killed on 71 Highway south of Downtown Kansas City.

The deadly shooting happened Tuesday night just after 6 o’clock near the 39th Street exit ramp. It closed down northbound lanes for more than five hours.

julius-harrisThe victim was identified by family members as 36-year-old Julius Harris, a father who is originally from Omaha, Neb. Police are still searching for his killer.

“It`s a big why?” said Harris’ sister, Markella Fenley. “Who? What was he doing?”

Police on both sides of the state line have spent hours combing through evidence alongside the highway in Kansas City, Mo., and at the auto shop Harris owned in Kansas City, Kan.

Meanwhile, Harris’ family is struggling to accept their new reality without him.

“He meant everything to me,” Fenley said. “I’m like lost for words.”

Fenley said she and Harris grew closer when he moved to the metro eight years ago.

“It`s hard to get a relationship with somebody like that,” she said, “and see what it`s like to have a real brother and now I ain’t got no brother. It`s just so hard to deal with, you know? I’m going to have to take this day by day.”

Harris died after police said he and someone else exchanged gunfire on 71 Highway.

“I was hysterical,” Fenley said of getting the news. “I was on my way to work and I got the call and I was on the highway, so I almost ran off the road.”

“Why somebody would want to go do this, it`s senseless,” she added.

Fenley said the auto shop Harris owned is a place he was proud of – a symbol of a fresh start, after he spent several years in prison for selling drugs.

“Nobody`s perfect,” she said. “God made nobody perfect. So you can't hold that against him. It`s what he did when he got out and he turned his life around and he was doing good.”

She said Harris turned his life around to provide for his children – three young girls who are now left without their dad.

“My dad was simply amazing,” said Miracle Saunders-Harris, Harris’ 14-year-old daughter who now lives in Texas with her mother.

“He was the best dad anyone could ask for. He’d bend over backwards to make me smile. My dad was selfless. He would make sure everyone around him ate before he did. He loved kids… all of us.”

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Miracle continued, “He made me laugh, he made me who I am. He built my confidence, intelligence, and my kindness. I love my dad like no other and I hope he is happy. I’m glad he gets to rest his feet after working so hard and not once thinking about himself.”

Suquett Saunders-O’Neal, Miracle’s mother, said she and Harris remained good friends even after they split up.

“Julius was a phenomenal father to his three kids and to his step-kids,” Saunders-O’Neal said. “He didn’t come without faults, but his good outweighed his bad. He was working to better himself and his situation for his kids.”

Fenley said her family is now desperate for the truth, as they ask anyone who knows something to speak out.

“Somebody seen something,” she said. “Come forth and tell it. You don’t even have to say your name. Just come forth and tell it. Put yourself in their shoes and if it was your people, what would you want somebody to do?”

Harris’ family plans to bury him in his hometown of Omaha next week.

“He was a good man,” Fenley said, “a family man and when I say a family man, I’m not saying just his family, the whole family in a sense. He`s just a good man, took care of everybody. He`d give you the shirt off his back.”