KANSAS CITY, Mo. — So far in 2019 there have been over 80 killing in Kansas City.
In an unprecedented move for a Saturday, the Kansas City Chief of Police, the Jackson County Prosecutor, and the Mayor of Kansas City all spoke to the media in a joint news conference.
It started with Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith announcing two officers had chased down the shooter who killed Erin Langhofer in Friday night’s shooting at the Crossroads First Friday event. But it quickly became about more.
“I wish I was here under better circumstances,” said Chief Smith, “but again, we’re here because of another senseless act of violence in our city.”
And just like that, he addressed what everyone was thinking. Chief Smith discussed the Langhofer murder. And then he continued, “At 39th & Myrtle on July 7th, Ki’essence Pelton was a passenger in a car and was shot in the head. Doing nothing. She also was a victim of senseless violence in this city.”
Then he talked about another unsolved homicide: Ki’essence Pelton’s cousin. “The very next day her cousin Charles Pelton was shot and killed at 103rd Street.” Smith said as many as 20 witnesses saw his death at a basketball court. No witnesses have come forward.
“This tells us about what`s going on in this town,” Smith said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Our city should not accept this violence.”
Newly-minted mayor Quinton Lucas agreed. “We’ve got a problem in Kansas City. I’ve been mayor for two full days; there have been two homicides.”
He said that phrase around 3:15 Saturday afternoon. By 6:05 Saturday evening, there was a third, near 55th and Agnes.
Both Smith and Lucas agree that crime must drop. But the question that plagues many cities is: how?
“I don`t think there`s a magical program out there that`s going to solve this issue,” Smith said with a shake of his head. “I don’t.”
“Everyone thinks that police deter all crime,” Smith said. “These officers were in the same parking lot at the exact same time the shots were fired.”
Smith noted that Friday night’s shooting occurred in a parking lot with two off-duty officers in uniforms working the event. He noted a shooting in Westport occurred with an officer in uniform eight feet away.
Smith talked about Friday’s shooting when he said, “I can guarantee you without a doubt there was probably two or three people that knew that young man had a gun last night. And someone could’ve said ‘put it away’. Someone could’ve said ‘Go home and put that up.’ And that’s not what happened. We had a fistfight that turned into a gunfight that turned into a senseless death. Again and again it happens in this city. And it shouldn’t happen.”
Smith also discussed the 18 year old suspect, Deon’te Copkney, possessing a gun.
“I don`t think this young man was on our radar, to tell you the truth. One of the things I asked was – could he legally possess the gun he had, and I see nothing to the contrary at this time that he couldn`t.”
Instead, it both Smith and Lucas said it comes down to caring about human life.
“I spent my morning with school kids from Kansas City Public Schools,” Lucas said. “I was telling kids who are 11, 12, 13 that we care about you.” Lucas was talking about attending Summerfest, an event that gets Kansas City Public School children excited, and prepared, for the beginning of the school year.
Lucas continued, “I grew up without a father in my home and a single mom. We were poor, we were moving around.”
He stood at the podium as Kansas City’s mayor. “But why am I standing here today? Because there were people that said, ‘We care about your future, Quinton Lucas.’ And that is the exact reason I`m here today. That`s why I didn’t pick up a gun. That`s why I picked up a book. That’s how I did something different.”
But it will take a community to change the “culture of violence” that Smith says exists in parts of Kansas City. So far, 84 families are victims to that culture this year.