Taza Khabre

Kansas City grappled with shootings long before the Super Bowl

Across the country, Americans were shocked and horrified by the images Wednesday from Kansas City, Mo., after shots were fired into a crowd of cheering parade-goers celebrating the city’s Super Bowl victory.

For people intimately aware of the entrenched violence in Kansas City, the shooting was painfully familiar.

Last year, 182 people were killed in Kansas City police datawhich surpassed the previous high in 2020. With a population of just over 500,000, Kansas City has one of the highest homicide rates in the country.

Rosilyn Temple, who founded the Kansas City chapter of Responsible Mothers after her son Antonio was killed in 2011, was at the scene of two separate shootings Tuesday, the night before the Super Bowl celebration.

“It’s going to get a lot of attention,” Ms. Temple said of the shooting at the rally. But after a year of record homicides in the city, she said, “it was only a matter of time” before a shooting occurred that resulted in multiple injuries or deaths.

City officials and community leaders have been fighting to reduce gun violence for years. According to city officials and those involved in violence prevention, many of Kansas City’s record-breaking homicides stem from feuds or other disputes, whether within families, groups of acquaintances or rival gangs.

Missouri has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, and obtaining a handgun or rifle is not a difficult task. Persons over the age of 19 do not need a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

Police in Kansas City have offered few details about the circumstances surrounding the shooting at the celebration, which left one woman dead and at least 22 others injured. But on Thursday, the city’s police chief, Stacey Graves, said the shooting was likely the result of an argument and was not being considered an act of terrorism.

A couple who attended the rally said they witnessed a terrifying scene: As they were about to leave the rally, an argument broke out near them and two men started shooting at each other, said Kourtney and Jesse King, who live in Independence. , Mo. ., and attended the parade with their children.

“They were running away from each other,” said Mr King, 41, “but they were still firing their weapons from behind, just not aiming.”

On Friday, two people, both under the age of 18, remained in police custody. Authorities said they charged the two with resisting arrest and “weapons-related” offenses. Additional charges are expected to be filed, according to a spokeswoman for the Jackson County, Mo. Juvenile Justice Department.

Annie Struby, an attorney and advocate for victims of domestic violence in Kansas City, said she spent the day of the parade holding her breath, worried that something might happen there.

When she heard the news about the shooting, she immediately wondered if it was related to the conflict that started long before the parade, between people who knew each other.

“It’s so incredibly easy for almost anyone to get a firearm,” Ms Struby said. “That allows for such an immediate escalation of the incident.”

After a spike during the pandemic, homicide rates fell in most U.S. cities in 2023, according to FBI data. Most violent and property crimes are also down.

But Kansas City remains a stubborn side. Among the 20 US cities with the highest number of murders in 2022. Kansas City was just one of fouralong with Dallas, Memphis and Washington, D.C., which saw a spike in homicides last year.

“Violence in Kansas City is nothing new,” said Damon Daniel, president of the AdHoc Anti-Crime Group, which provides counseling services to those affected by violence, as well as job readiness training.

Mr. Daniel, who is narrow follow police data on murders, he counted several murders in the city since last weekend alone.

“We’re at one of those points where it seems to many of us that it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. However, he added that efforts to increase cooperation between law enforcement, nonprofits and city agencies are beginning to bear fruit. “We didn’t get here overnight and it’s not going to go away overnight,” he said.

Mike Parson, Missouri’s Republican governor and former sheriff, was at the back of the stage, outside Union Station, when the shots were fired. I’m speaking on the radio on Thursday morning, Mr. Parson acknowledged Kansas City’s problems with violence, but said other cities were “far worse.”

Violence in Kansas City is concentrated in certain neighborhoods that are also marked by poverty and squalor. A disproportionate number of shootings in the city occur east of Troost Avenue, the main north-south thoroughfare. Kansas City is somewhat divided both racially and socioeconomically by Troost, a divide that has its own roots in redlining and intentional racial segregation.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, a Democrat who has been mayor since 2019, on Thursday rejected the idea that the downtown parade or the gun violence prevalent in residential neighborhoods defined the city.

“I don’t think, by any means, that this is Kansas City,” he said. “I think there is a challenge of gun violence in this community and many others.”

But he added that he doesn’t expect the city to stop holding parades and other events.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri, a Democrat and former mayor of Kansas City, said the city’s football team has been a source of pride and community for its residents, bringing people together regardless of racial or ideological differences.

What he fears, he said, is what violence could do to celebratory community events across the country. Would security concerns start to keep people away?

“It’s starting to break down our togetherness that sports can do, especially the bosses right now,” he said.

He contributed to the reporting Jacey Fortin, Robert Gebeloff and Colby Edmonds.

Exit mobile version