INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — It was mayhem stretching across two cities Monday.
First there was an armed carjacking in Raytown, followed by a shooting at an Independence apartment complex.
“The things that go through a dad’s mind (are) taking care of his family, and it’s a little nerve-wracking,” said Tim Vogel, the dad of a 17-year-old carjacked at gunpoint.
The suspects in this crime spree are still on the run, and police are trying to piece it all together.
Around 5:30 p.m. Monday, Memorial Day turned to trauma for Vogel’s daughter.
“A car passed her up going pretty fast before the stop sign that’s right there at that intersection. They blocked the road, and several of them got out with guns and approached her,” Vogel said.
It was the beginning of these suspects’ violent rampage. Less than 3 hours later, they took that stolen car to Hawthorne Place Apartments in Independence.
Michelle Witherspoon had just arrived home from her mother’s gravesite, and within minutes of going inside, she heard too many shots to count.
“I hear this, ‘Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,'” Witherspoon said.
Those bullets hit two teens, and the suspects fled, crashing the car before they ran from the scene.
“It’s very frustrating, and that’s an understatement because now I have to spend money I don’t have to get this fixed,” Witherspoon said. Her car was also hit by gunfire.
Independence police said from January 2022 to now, they have taken more than 2,400 calls about issues at Hawthorn Place Apartments. That’s an average of 4-5 calls every day.
The problem has become so rampant that Independence police have assigned two officers just to work at the complex.
“We’ve got two teenagers who were hit by gunfire. Whether they were intended targets or innocent victims, still we have two people that were hit by gunfire,” Independence Police Officer Jack Taylor said.
Vogel’s happy his daughter wasn’t hurt, and Witherspoon said she’s blessed to be alive.
“I just lost my mother in April and my grandmother, who was 103, 33 days later,” Witherspoon said. “Yesterday I went to the cemetery to mourn their death. Had I been sitting in the car, it could have been my death.”
Vogel said his daughter didn’t cry because of what happened but instead because these people made a bad decision. The teen said she’s already forgiven them.
In a statement to FOX4, property managers of Hawthorne Place Apartments said:
“POAH Communities and our Hawthorne Place Apartments staff is working closely with the Independence Police Department as it investigates Monday night’s unfortunate event. As we support the law enforcement investigation, we are focused on communicating with and aiding as many residents as we can reach or request assistance.
Our prayers go out to the families impacted by this crime.
Since 2014 there have been significant security investments made at Hawthorne, an affordable housing community that spreads across 72 acres and is framed by several public roads and entrances and has public streets running through the property.
Our enhanced security effort begins with a strong partnership with the outstanding officers of IPD. Hawthorne employs off-duty police which supplement the on-duty officers who are housed in the community. This is a unique security measure among affordable housing communities nationwide. Every year IPD provides a security assessment of the property to which the Hawthorne team is dedicated to actively applying.
Further security measure includes the property’s 31 security cameras. Management is in the process of adding more. POAHC donated a mobile license plate reader to IPD for use on and off the property as officers work to best police our entire community. Also, a private security analyst, employed by POAHC is tasked with frequent assessments of the property.
A community center was built to help address some of the root issues that criminologists point to when it comes to crime rates. This center offers a variety of services including meetings with a local women’s battered shelter group and programs tied to financial distress, food insecurity, and healthcare.
Our Hawthorne team will never stop researching and investing in different ways to improve security for our residents. As the public is aware there are times, such as the incident Monday night that crime comes to a neighborhood from another location.
These tragic incidents further our resolve to listen and act on steps that will mitigate crime in this community. We realize fighting crime is a part of our ongoing efforts. And we are in that fight for the families who live at Hawthorne.— POAH Communities