Local grassroots groups unite to stage violence prevention events

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

A coalition of urban core groups is meeting Monday afternoon to discuss what more they can do to reduce gun violence in the city.

Yet another shooting Monday morning near East 114th Street and Spring Valley Road has left a man fighting for his life in the hospital.

Police say just after 7 a.m. someone fired seven shots into a home in southeast Kansas City. Police tell FOX4 a man in his 20’s was hit by at least one of the gunshots and is in critical condition at the hospital right now.

Kansas City has had 99 homicides so far this year, according to police, but around 400 shooting incidents, just like this one.

That’s why 25 different grassroots groups, representing the Justice and Dignity Coalition, met Monday to develop more activities and events, which bring people together peacefully.

“Sometimes you wake up and it’s unbelievable,” said Sheoni Givens, of the Transitions For Life Foundation, a member of the coalition. “It’s another kid, another person and another person in the street. It’s ridiculous! We have to value life. That’s what we lost sight of. We don’t value each other’s life. We think we have the right to take it, when we haven’t given life.”

A vacant parking lot near 31st Street and The Paseo is next to the police Central Patrol District. It may soon stage Smoke Your Tires events, where police and teenagers can show off their driving skills by doing donuts, safely.

Other events may include three-on-three basketball tournaments, a Day of Dignity and making drive-in movies available in the urban core.

Kansas City managed to avoid reaching 100 homicides during the holiday weekend, but just barely.

Now community leaders say they need to make sure they’re doing everything they can to mediate disputes and develop events to bring people together instead of drive them apart.

After spending 23 years in prison for a wrongful conviction, Ricky Kidd becomes viral sensation on TikTok

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

It’s been around ten months since Ricky Kidd was exonerated. Since then, his life looks completely different.

He describes it as a wild and fast roller coaster ride with a whirlwind of meaningful and surprising moments.

Kidd was freed from prison in September after spending 23 years behind bars for a 1996 homicide that he did not commit.

“I feel like I just walked out of a nightmare and into a dream,” Kidd said. 

But when the news cameras lost their focus, and he had to start his life, Ricky took action.

“To have that opportunity where the coach says you’re in. So, you take that ball, you dribble it on the court, you square it up, and you try to make a basket,” Kidd said.

He started his own company, ‘I am Resilience.’

Kidd began speaking engagements, taking private classes on resilience itself, started therapy, and is working toward teaching workshops about how to live your life with purpose.

One way he is getting his message out is through TikTok. His 9-year-old granddaughter told him about the app, and he signed up to use it with her.

People started encouraging him to use it to connect with people, and his videos took off.

He has more than four million views, nearly one million likes, and more than one hundred thousand followers.

“It started going viral. Fast. You get to put the little bubbles up top of 23 years wrongfully convicted, now helping others, using my life, and it didn’t stop. The numbers just kept ticking and ticking.” Kidd said.

The funny videos have a serious message about being resilient and criminal justice reform. Ricky says it’s exciting to tell a new generation about his story. 

He also fell in love with a colleague, Dawn Elizabeth. They work together on Ricky’s brand. Recently the couple got engaged and found out they are having a baby girl.

When Kidd was originally arrested in the mid-1990s his girlfriend at the time was pregnant with a baby girl. Kidd was released from prison as a grandfather, and now feels he gets to finally experience what being a father to a little girl is outside of prison.

“Now I get to see what that looks like, and feels like, and fully present. I mean, fully present,” Kidd said.

“It means everything to me, I’ve waited a long time,” Elizabeth said. “To have a little girl, to be able to bring her up in the world and to know that she has fierce strong parents.”

Kidd says they are naming her Harmony Justice Kidd to match his life’s mission. He plans to work on criminal justice reform helping others he believes are wrongfully convicted get out of jail like he did. 

Ricky says, while what he went through was wrong, what he has now 23 years was worth the wait. 

“I’m happy. I am happy. For the first time, and I think I can say that,” Kidd said.

If you are interested in taking one of Ricky’s resilience workshops, or learning more about his mission, you can subscribe to his mailing list. You can find him on TikTok at the handle @mrresilience. 

UMKC program stepping up to help teen who lost dad in shooting after KC protest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

It’s been a month since a Kansas City man was murdered after a protest near the Plaza.

Now, the University of Missouri-Kansas City is showing support to his son and helping him reach for the stars.

Jayden Francois dreams of becoming an astrophysicist. 

“I have always loved astrophysics. My dad got me really into that,” Francois said.

Three years ago, Jayden joined UMKC’s “A Bridge to the Stars” program. It aims to teach high school students in the urban core, or who are under-represented, about STEM.

All the students need to do to qualify is have a desire to go to college. They’re able to attend college courses and get mentored by students and associate astronomy professor Daniel McIntosh.

McIntosh has kept in touch with Jayden since he graduated from the program.

“He’s incredibly curious, and he’s incredibly mature. Both of those things immediately stood out,” McIntosh said.

“He immediately was already trying to convince and persuade and have discussions and debates with adult college students, and also when he would answer questions, so there’s lots of opportunities to have provide an argument for an answer, and he would do that frequently.”

Jayden’s dad, Marvin Francois, would attend classes with him from time to time. 

“He came to several classes, and I think even came through class,” McIntosh said. “Just out of curiosity, you can tell it was like he was just interested in what was going on and supportive about what Jayden was doing.”

“Oh, it was the greatest. I just absolutely love my dad being in the program and being in the class because he just he was so much fun to be around,” Jayden said. “You never regretted anytime you had with him. So when he was just being himself in class with you, you couldn’t help but just smile.”

Marvin was killed May 31 after a protest at the plaza. He attended to take photographs of the day, but left and came back to pick someone up.

Police said Marvin was murdered when three black males tried to carjack him at 46th and Warwick. He was shot three times and died at the scene.

Police said since he was killed, there hasn’t been any movement in his case. They’ve only received around five tips at the time of the homicide — and none since.

“This just really had an impact on me, just the senselessness of it, the the tragedy and mostly my heart just going out to Jayden, to his family, into thinking about, you know, what does that, what does that gonna mean for Jayden?” McIntosh said.

“It’s been pretty difficult going through it day by day, but I’m just hoping that sooner or later I can find happiness again,” Jayden said.

Mentors through A Bridge for the Stars put together a Gofundme for Jayden. So far, it’s raised more than $6,000.

Jayden will study astrophysics in the fall at Mizzou. He said he’s excited because he’ll get to do a lot of lab work early to prepare him for higher education in the years to come.

McIntosh said Jayden’s future is much like the universe.

“I think, unlimited possibility,” McIntosh said. “I think that’s probably a maybe it sounds trite or something. But I actually really believe that he’s just a really remarkable young man.”

“I have no idea what the end result will be, but I know that there are so many different things I can accomplish and I’m going to try to accomplish,” Jayden said. “So, you know, the sky’s the limit.”

If you would like to donate to the fund, you can find it here

Anyone with information in the case is asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-8477. Tipsters can also upload photos and video to the Crime Stoppers website here.

One woman’s Black Lives Matter sign idea becomes a mission for two metro teens

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Original Post

Signs are popping up all around Overland Park neighborhoods. The style is simple, but the meaning is deeper.

It started as one woman’s idea but has turned into two teen’s mission.

Down the lane you can see manicured lawns, bright flowers, full ferns, waving flags and simple signs. Just 12-by-12-inch white plastic on tiny metal spikes, emboldened on the front is a black heart — and nothing else.

Holly Cornelius has lived on the street for around 25 years.

“I was starting to make a sign for myself, and I realized it would be so much more powerful lining our street,” Cornelius said.

She said her neighborhood is predominantly white, and her goal in making the signs was to show Black people they matter here, too.

“It gives people who live here a chance to see that they should continue speaking out, and it allows the people who pass through to understand what kind of a place this is, and that we want change,” Cornelius said.

Neighbors, friends and strangers started asking her for signs. People shared posts online, asking where people could find one of their own.

Cornelius said she realized it wasn’t her mission to share them. It was a mission for 17-year-old Amari and 15-year-old Sa’Mya Lewis.

“Usually I’m hesitant about coming to a place like this because you’re not sure if you’re welcome or not, but when I saw the signs I was like, ‘OK, I can be here. People want me here,’” Amari said.

Cornelius has known the teens since they were little. Her daughter performed in theater with them. She would talk to their mother, Shontail, about life, and it was an eye-opening experience to her about white privilege.

Now the girls are selling the signs themselves.

Their mothers are helping them along the way. The teens want people to know that Black lives matter — especially their brother’s. LJ Noel, 26, was shot and killed in August of 2019.

“He would want us to do this,” Sa’Mya said. “He would be so proud of us right now. That’s why I continue to do this because I know he would be so proud of me and my sister.”

Sa’Mya said their brother always used to make promises, and he would do whatever he could to keep them. In his honor, they named their company A Higher Promise to spread the message of Black Lives Matter.

“We’re up for it, and I can’t wait to see what we can do with it and what influence and impact we can make,” Amari said.

“Normally I wouldn’t think that in this type of neighborhood that I would feel welcome or anything, but seeing these signs I just have this sigh of relief, because I know that I matter, and they look at me and see I’m a person, and I matter too,” Sa’Mya said.

For now the business is focused on signs, but they hope it becomes much more.

“We just become a hub, a center, an educational resource, a resource for local black, brown, indigenous, and LGBT+ businesses. I just want to make a social change, and I think we can do that with our business,” Amari said.

“We have this opportunity to do something that could change lives, change people’s perspectives, and that’s the most important thing to me,” Sa’Mya said.

The next batch of lawn signs is being produced now. They are selling them online for $10 a piece and are available for delivery or local pickup.

The funds raised with the signs will go toward the their college fund and donations to local Black nonprofits.

KC councilman proposes red light entertainment district at 18th and Vine — but it’s not what you think

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

A city councilman is proposing to make 18th & Vine a red light district, but it’s not what you think.

Brandon Ellington said it has nothing to do with sex or drugs and everything to do with zoning and tax dollars. 

The 3rd District At-Large councilman would like to see the district look a lot like Beale Street in Memphis, which is zoned the same way.

He’s working toward making 18th & Vine a community improvement district (CID) and overlaying it with a red light district by late July.

“It’s not like Amsterdam. I know that’s the first thing people think about,” Ellington said. “It creates a natural funding stream for things like security and other things that the property owners and business owners have been talking about. By rezoning it, it allows flexibility when it comes to development and incentives for developers.”

Ellington said by zoning it this way, they’ll be able to block off streets and allow people to move more freely.

“The CID would allow natural pooling of dollars for security, trash remediation and some of the other marketing things you see in the Power and Light and other successful entertainment districts,” Ellington said. “The red light district rezoning would allow the businesses to have more flexibility.”

He said the CID would add private security, support development, reduce violence and blight and keep taxes paid in the district going toward improvements there.

Henry Service, an 18th & Vine property owner, said he supports it.

“I wish there was an other word than red light district,” Service said. “It’s an excellent idea. We need that. We’re trying to survived down here just like every other district, and that kind of thing is going to help us survive.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas also wishes there was another way to say it. However, he supports the idea of a community improvement district and the ability to make it more focused on events.

“I absolutely support the idea of a community improvement district, and finding every possible way we can to allow for more businesses to be safe, be open, have better security, but also for more business to have better regulated traffic as you go through,” Lucas said.

“Shutting down streets, making sure that there are more pedestrian opportunities be it eating, walking, sitting — so I think that is a strong idea.”

Ellington brought up the subject at both the 18th & Vine committee meeting last week and the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee meeting.

There were no comments against the idea at either meeting by council, committee or public testimony. Many residents who attended the meetings favored the idea openly.

Ellington said his next step is to take his ideas to the election authority, and then bring it back to the Neighborhood Planning and Development Committee on July 8.

He hopes the project will put 18th & Vine on track to success.

“If we get to blocking those streets off and having live entertainment outside, 18th & Vine becomes a poppin’ area again,” Ellington said.

On Friday, a request for proposals regarding development of 18th & Vine will go out through the city. Ellington hopes this proposal will be attractive to developers. 

He said his goal is to get the CID in place before August when Missouri House Bill 2235 is expected to become a law, which will change parameters on how a community improvement districts are approved.

Kansas City businesses and organizations adjust as masks become a requirement in public

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

Masks make all the difference. Starting Monday, you’ll be required to wear them in public around Kansas City, Missouri. 

Some organizations are having to adjust, while for others it will be business as usual.

“Wearing is caring,” Kansas City Area Transit Authority spokesperson, Cindy Baker said.

The wheels on the bus will keep going around, and the riders on the bus will need to put on their masks.

“We will be reminding them that it’s important to keep those masks on,” Baker said. “We will not be kicking people off the bus. This is going to be a soft opening as far as we’re concerned. We will be reminding people it’s important to have a mask, and if they don’t have one we’ll tell them how to get one.”

KCATA will be giving away thousands of them to riders making it easy to mask up.

“You can use your own bandanna,” Baker said. “There’s all kinds of ways you can make your own face coverings. You don’t have to have an official mask.”

At Kansas City area YMCAs wearing masks is just part of their day to day. Mark Hulet, their Senior Vice President of Operations and Risk says they’ve had a mask mandate since they were allowed to reopen.

“They’re required to wear a mask in common space, but while they’re working out whether they’re in the pool or whether they’re on fitness equipment they can take their mask off just from the risk management perspective that we’ve spaced everyone out accordingly,” Hulet said.

Hulet says sometimes people don’t want to wear a mask, but it’s a must have.

“They either don’t have a mask or they have chosen that they want to test those waters. We refuse their entrance,” Hulet said. “This is our ability to say that you have to have a mask. We are a private organization, although we are a community organization. We can require the mask.”

He says he hopes people see wearing a mask is safer risking getting yourself or someone else sick.

“This is pretty common practice and no matter where you’re going people have masks. It’s not something out of the ordinary that the mayor has asked, or any jurisdiction around the metro has asked,” Hulet said. “So, it’s something that’s just the right thing to do, and we’re going to continue to do the right thing in Kansas City.”

If you ride the bus and are wondering where you can get a free mask there should be more information coming Monday about when and where you can find them.

‘We’re still behind them’: Group rallies on steps of KCPD headquarters to show support

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

While there was big news on the City Hall steps involving the Kansas City Police Department, there was also support for the department just across the street.

A group rallied around the department Thursday. Hymns and prayers were heard on the steps of Police Headquarters.

“They protect us, and they support us in every way,” 12-year-old Rachel Ratterman said.

“With all the rioting that’s been happening, the violence, the police have been taking a lot of heat unjustly, and so we wanted to come out and support them,” organizer Joshua McDonald said. “Make sure they know that we’re still behind them. That there’s somebody out there that wants to fight with them.”

“We just want to support our police. They’re going through a lot right now, and they’ve done a lot for us so we want to back them and support them,” supporter Christine McDonald said.

KCPD spokesman Sgt. Jake Becchina came out to talk with the supporters and said it means a lot to all the city’s officers. 

“We’re going to continue serving and doing our business the way that we do,” Becchina said. “We’re going to continue showing up when people call 911. We’re going to continue investigating crashes. We’re going to keep solving people’s crimes. We’re going to keep doing all of that regardless of city control, state control.”

The group hadn’t heard about Thursday’s announcement about a possible vote for the city to take control of the department instead of the state. They said it was just a coincidence, and they’d have to look into the mayor’s announcement.

“They need the support in such a hard time right now, and they’re doing a great job of protecting us,” 13-year-old Gemma Ratterman said.

Becchina said the department will take all the support it can get.

“It brings out a lot of joy and a lot of happiness to feel that support,” he said.

“It makes me feel as though I need to pray for police and help support them in any way I can,” Gemma said.

Chief Rick Smith came out for a few moments to meet with their supporters Thursday. Becchina said it means a lot to Smith to see the support. 

The group said they plan to be back at Police Headquarters next Thursday with even more people.

Leaders working together in hopes of keeping violence out of 18th and Vine District

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

Leaders in the 18th and Vine District are getting creative. They want to keep patrons safe, and keep violence out.

A key committee met Tuesday to discuss options. They talked about urgent changes they hope to make. Business owners especially came out to make their voices heard and said violent crime is a cycle they are done with.

“I live here, and I see it,” said Shelia Johnston, owner of Gangsta Goodies Kitchen.

“I’ve been let down,” said Tiarra Taylor-Dixon, owner of Smaxx and Velvet Freeze Daiquiris. “I’ve been let down by the community, by Kansas City. It’s a little disheartening right now.”

“The business owners are doing everything they can to try to revitalize this area, and then we have those few bad actors. They ruin it for everyone,” Johnson said.

Business owners and residents said the crime rate in the district needs to stop rising.

The 18th & Vine Development Policy Committee is working to get off duty officers on the streets on weekends from around 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. There was also discussion of blocking streets and improving lighting in the entire district.

“Eighteenth and Vine is a jewel in this city, and it needs to be treated as such,” Third District City Councilwoman Melissa Robinson said. “People from all over the world — we are known for jazz and barbecue, and all of that happens on the Vine.

“What I hear stakeholders saying is that if we’re going to be responsible for elevating the city, the city also has to be responsible and do their part as well.”

The committee wants to work toward becoming a community improvement district before the end of the summer.

They also created two sub-committees, one aimed at property and business ownership, and another for community involvement. Taylor-Dixon was appointed to the business ownership committee and said she will do whatever she can to help.

“We see value in this area because most people do not we need to see value, and we need to appreciate the things we put down here as black owners and working together,” Taylor-Dixson said.

Committee chair and councilwoman Robinson said many of the ideas and concerns gathered at the meeting will head to the city council.

‘Not again’: Kansas City leaders grapple with fallout from weekend gun violence

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

City leaders are speaking out about four shootings in Kansas City overnight Sunday.

“Not again,” Mayor Quinton Lucas said.

One person died and six others were hurt in the shootings. Both Lucas, and Kansas City 3rd District Councilwoman Melissa Robinson say more can be done to stop the shooting.

Mayor Lucas says Father’s Day has changed for too many families in Kansas City due to gun violence.

“It’s Father’s Day today. How many fathers have lost their lives this year in Kansas City? How many children are growing up without parents?” Lucas asked.

KCPD says a man was killed at 18th & Vine at 1:45 a.m., on Sunday. Another man was also shot there and expected to survive.

A short time later at about 2:30 a.m., police say three people were shot outside the Baccala adult night club at Independence and Van Brunt. Two are expected to survive and one is in serious condition.

People in the neighborhood say it’s common to see people partying outside once the club is closed. People gather on the sidewalk and fill the parking lot of a neighboring business until the early hours of the morning.

“A lot of these incidents have gone off at about 1:30 in the morning, 2 a.m., 1 a.m., last night,” Lucas said. “Nowhere was actually open at that point. Making sure that we have people moving out after the night’s over.”

At 3 a.m., at 39th & Benton, a woman told police she was randomly shot, and police say she is expected to recover.

An hour-and-a-half later at 5:30 a.m. at Linwood and Walrond, a witness told police she saw a man shoot a woman, and police say the victim is in critical condition.

Robinson says the community needs to come together and connect the dots to get people the resources they need.

“It is critically important to say that these aren’t just bodies stacked on top of bodies,” Robinson said. “These are people. These are families. This is a community. We’re all connected together. If one of us has to experience that how are we all coming to terms with how that impacts our own individual lives.”

This is not the first shooting outside Baccala. In November, four people were shot near the parking lot. No arrests were made in the case.

‘It’s just unbelievable’: Friends shocked after 23-year-old killed in hit-and-run in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

Friends are mourning the loss of a young woman hit and killed early Sunday morning.

Police say witnesses told them cars were drag racing down Main Street near 43rd Street when they hit 23-year-old Zahara Kathawalla. The driver turned themselves in early Monday morning, and police are investigating. 

Madeline Straley and Beth Tjeerdsma met Kathawalla around a year ago when she moved to Kansas City for a job. They were inseparable ever since. 

“I love you, and I miss you,” Straley said.

Both women said Kathawalla was naturally radiant, funny and kind. She spent most of her last day with Tjeerdsma doing some of her favorite things.

“One of our favorite things to do together was lay in a park on a blanket and just listen to music,” Tjeerdsma said. “We would just sit even — on her last day, we did that actually. We just laid on a blanket in the park and looked up at the sky, and I remember her saying what a great day it was.”

“For that to happen to someone so close to me — it’s just unbelievable,” Straley said.

Around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, Kathawalla and a friend were crossing Main Street on their way home. Police said two cars came racing through the intersection.

Kathawalla was hit, and died at the scene. Both drivers fled. 

Later that day, police said they recovered the Ford Focus that hit Kathawalla. The car was severely damaged, and its tags were removed.

“You never think that something like that is going to happen like that to someone that you care about, I guess, something so sudden and so quick,” Tjeerdsma said. “She was here, and then she wasn’t. So suddenly.”

The driver turned themselves in early Monday morning. Police said they are gathering evidence before prosecutors file charges.

“There’s never going to be closure on it, and there’s never going to be a resolution because she ceases to exist. That’s just the only way I can think about it,” Straley said. “I don’t really know what to think, but it’s better than not having been found.”

“Driving safe and always being careful is so important because you never think this can happen, and then it so easily can,” Tjeerdsma said.

KCPD has not released the identity of the driver. They are working on evidence related to the car and the condition of the driver at the time of the crash.

Once all evidence is gathered they will present their recommendation of charges to the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney.