Retired nurse speaks out on racial allegations at Kansas City VA Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

New racial allegations about the Kansas City VA Hospital are coming to light. On Thursday, one of the alleged victims spoke out. Also, concerns over a Juneteenth event that is shocking many.

Retired nurse, Charmayne Brown says she experienced systemic racism during her time at the hospital.

“My friends call me Charlie, but my chief of service called me Aunt Jemima,” Brown said.

Brown began working at the VA in the late 1980s. in 2008, she said she left the hospital to join the Navy, and came back after a time in the service.

“When I came back I had a white nurse thirty years younger than myself kick me in the rear end and call me a tar baby. I didn’t say anything,” Brown said. “I was horrified. I didn’t say anything at that time, but as the years went on it got more and more blatant.”

Brown is represented by attorney Rebecca Randles. Randles says she’s been working on racial discrimination cases against the hospital for around ten years.

“They don’t understand the black experience and aren’t interested in learning about the black experience,” Randles said.

She says one of her clients told her abut a Juneteenth event the VA planned to host. She said employees were asked to participate in a “living museum” and to dress as slaves.

“I couldn’t think of anything that would be more inappropriate than asking these professional individuals that are trying to work their way up are being held down by the powers that be to dress up and to celebrate the denigration of their race,” Randles said.

Randles said recently reports of racism at the VA is on an upswing. Brown says she wants others to know they have a voice.

“People do care, we just have to find those people,” Brown said. “As we unite we become stronger when we do. When we begin to speak our voices will be heard.”

We asked the Kansas City VA to share it’s side of the story. A representative for the hospital sent FOX4 this statement:

“Q: The employee says it includes a “Living Museum” and that some black employees were asked to dress up as slaves for the event.

A: There is no truth to that. Kansas City VAMC is holding an event celebrating Juneteenth in which employees may bring items celebrating African American history and culture. This could include food, poems or personal stories. Participation in this event is voluntary and no employees were asked to dress up.”

They also said the Kansas City VA Medical Center is proud of its diverse and inclusive culture, and the facility does not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind.

Representative Emmanuel Cleaver II and Sharice Davids issued a joint statement on the allegations about the Juneteeth event. Both calling for changes to be made.

“Today, we write on behalf of several employees at the Kansas City Veterans Administration (KCVA) Medical Center. Over the past several months, employees have raised concerns that have formed a pattern we simply cannot ignore. Our offices have brought some to your attention over the last few months through formal inquiries, but many more employees have been affected and it’s on behalf of all of them and the veterans they serve that we write you today. Most pressing is a Juneteenth event scheduled to take place on the campus. According to reports to our offices, African American employees were asked by management to take part in a living museum in which they portray historic figures, including former slaves. In addition, various people were solicited to perform, particularly “rappers.” It was also noted that an Associate Director on a staff conference call discussed ordering fried chicken and watermelon as catering for the event.

If a safe working environment existed, this could have been a moment of learning and growing, but staff confronted with these racist facets of the event fear retribution and even job loss by coming forward to share their concerns. Staff have conveyed that they face retaliation when they report wrongdoing within the facility, rather than the wrongdoer being held accountable. Many equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaints have been filed in regard to countless discriminatory acts at all levels of the KCVA. It is our understanding that in response to EEO complaints, positions were created and posted on USAJOBS solely for settlement purposes. Furthermore, of those who accepted the new settlement positions, some have since been fired and some who refused the settlement offers have been targeted for further harassment and discrimination.”

George Floyd mural with words ‘silence is violence’ goes up on wall of Westport store

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

A George Floyd mural is now part of Westport’s landscape.

The art piece is on the side of the clothing store DVA% on Westport Road between Central and Wyandotte streets.

The owner of the store came up with the idea with the help of a few artists.

Around five muralists put the project together over a few days. It incorporates a portrait of Floyd, his name in graffiti style letters and the message “silence is violence” at the bottom.

Artist Chris Oldham said he wanted to send a message to fight against racism to people walking by.

“If you see something, say something. It’s sort of the same with racism,” Oldham said. “You know, you have friends or family — even if they’re not racist to the bone, if they say something that maybe they shouldn’t be saying or if they’re a little insensitive about one issue or the other, it’s good to talk to them in an open positive way. Try to call people in instead of call people out.”

Oldham said the wall was originally was going to have a Super Bowl mural. But as the seasons changed with the coronavirus and unrest in the country, they all felt this was a more important message for the community.

Jackson County now offering 12 weeks paid family leave for all full-time employees

JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. — Original Post

For Jackson County employees, it might be a good time to have a baby.

County Executive Frank White Jr. announced Wednesday they will offer 12 weeks of paid leave for both mothers and fathers. 

“Being there, providing for those who you love is not negotiable,” White said. “Every child deserves to be cared for when they need it.”

White enacted the policy by singing an executive order on the steps of the courthouse.

“It applies to all full-time eligible associates no matter their job, their salary, their race or sexual orientation,” White said. “It allows every parent or caregiver to have the time they need to bond, care and recover.”

Parents can use the time to bond with their newly born or adopted child. White said the time can be used all at once or intermittently.

The county worked with the Women’s Foundation to come up with the plan. President & CEO Wendy Doyle spoke at Wednesday’s press conference.

“No one should have to chose between caring for a child or paying the bills,” Doyle said. “We are elated to see this issue being prioritized in Jackson County.”

The county touts this as the most progressive plan in the state of Missouri. In 2018, Kansas City, Missouri, gave its full time employees seven weeks of paid parental leave. 

In Platte County, employees get 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and Clay County offers the same to employees who’ve been with the county longer than a year.

On the other side of the state line in Kansas, Johnson County offers four weeks of 80% of the employee’s salary. Overland Park offers 12 weeks unpaid leave to their employees.

Matt Davis works as a project manager for the Jackson County Parks & Recreation and has two young children.

“It just feels very special,” Davis said. “I feel like it’s a benefit that a lot of other people across this country don’t have. So to be able to have that as an associate of Jackson County, I feel very lucky. I feel a lot of gratitude. To have that time with my family is incredibly special.”

White said the goal is not only to give parents time with their kids, but to also give incentives to help retain employees over time. 

8-year-old girl randomly shot one year ago pushes for peace in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo — Original Post

An 8-year-old Kansas City girl is asking for peace in her city.

She was randomly shot one year ago while riding in a car. Now, she and her mother say they want to see an end to violent crime.

BrookLynn Cross is a girly girl through and through. She’s known by her friends and family for always wearing a pair of sparkly or fluffy ears on her head. Some look like cat ears, maybe wolf ears, a fuzzy panda, and don’t forget a unicorn horn. 

However, BrookLynn is also a victim of gun violence. Her mother, Julie Foster, said her daughter’s strength is remarkable.

“It didn’t break her. It never broke her,” Foster said. “Her spirit was still there, and she kept me sane in that hospital.”

She was shot a little more than a year ago on June 9. KCPD said officers responded to the shooting around 6:14 p.m. near Linwood and Gillham. When they arrived they found a 16-year-old male victim had been shot in the ankle.

The victim got into an argument with someone in the parking lot. Police said there was an exchange of gunfire between the two parties.

Foster said the 16-year-old unintentionally shot BrookLynn, but purposefully shot his gun. One of his bullets went through her car and hit BrookLynn in both of her legs. 

Foster rushed her daughter to Children’s Mercy where she went into surgery. BrookLynn kept a positive attitude and learned how to walk again with the help of physical therapy and a walker.

The 8-year-old said her mom had a hard time, but she was there for her.

“She was really sad, but I helped her cheer up because she knew I was going to make it, and I knew that, too,” BrookLynn said. “She was crying so much, but I helped her get happier.”

Her wounds have healed, but she still needs surgery. She will have another one soon, but BrookLynn said when she looks at her scars she doesn’t think of herself.

She said she thinks of her uncle, 18-year-old Bradley Sartain.

“He was my favorite uncle,” BrookLynn said.

Sartain was killed in late November 2017, and his case remains unsolved. Independence police said he and another man, 20-year-old Ernesto Delahoz, were shot and killed at Hawthorne Place Apartments.

BrookLynn made a shadow box for her uncle. She keeps it by her bed along with pillows made out of shirts he used to wear. 

“It always makes me feel safe because it makes me feel like his spirit is in the room protecting me,” BrookLynn said.

Foster said the boy who shot BrookLynn is currently going through the court system and is being tried as a juvenile.

The teen who shot him, 17-year-old Michael D. Candler-Ward is being tried as an adult. He is charged with assault, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon.

Foster wishes the teen who shot her daughter were facing the same consequences.

“I feel like it’s happening more than what we talk about. It’s sad. It’s truly sad that a 16-year-old feels like he has to walk around with a gun,” Foster said. “We need to crack down on gun violence. I think if someone gets caught with a gun and they’re at a young age, I think they should be tried as an adult.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas said homicides are up in Kansas City by 36%, and non-fatal shootings for the month of May are up 74%.

BrookLynn is asking people to think before they shoot.

“Keep peaceful and try to work it out because you don’t know if you could shoot a little girl or a little baby,” BrookLynn said. “You never know if you could shoot a little kid.” 

If you can help solve Sartain’s case, or any other major crimes in the metro, call the CrimeStoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS or submit a tip here. All tips are anonymous, and you could earn a cash reward.

KCK woman’s father dies, 2-year-old daughter severely injured in hit-and-run crash

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A Kansas City, Kansas, man is dead and his two-year-old granddaughter is in the hospital after a hit-and-run crash early Saturday.

Two blocks from Myreona Stewart’s home, she almost lost her whole family.

“It was shocking. It was unreal. It still feels unreal,” Stewart said.

Just after midnight Saturday, her dad, his girlfriend, Myreona’s boyfriend, her 4-year-old brother and her two-year-old daughter were driving home from the store. Police say an SUV with two people inside hit the family’s car at 10th and Parallel.

“I started panicking. I started calling phones. I called my boyfriend’s phone, and he didn’t answer,” Stewart said.

Her dad, 41-year-old Myron Gardner, died on impact. Her daughter, Sha’Maya survived but is in the ICU at Children’s Mercy.

She hasn’t woken up but does respond to pain and her mother’s voice. She said the little girl now suffers from seizures that she didn’t before — and might deal with them for the rest of her life.

“I wanted to feel her pain. Why? You know? I don’t like it. I know I have to stay strong for her,” Stewart said.

Her boyfriend’s shoulder is broken, and her little brother is traumatized. His back hurts, and his stomach won’t settle after the experience.

Police said 25-year-old Kendra Womack was driving the SUV that hit Gardner’s sedan. They said she ran from the scene but later turned herself in. She’s being held on a reckless involuntary manslaughter charge.

“You should feel bad for what you did. I feel like that,” Stewart said. “That’s how I feel. That’s wrong. Even though you turned yourself in, but you ran though.”

Myreona, who is named after her dad, said she will miss him forever.

“You don’t find too many genuine people, like really real genuine people,” Stewart said. “Like, really real genuine people that actually care. You don’t find that many people. Humans are not all the same. Not at all.”

Womack is being held in the Wyandotte County Jail without bond and is awaiting a court date.

River Market restaurant gets backlash after KC officer told not to wear uniform inside

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

A controversial conversation at a River Market restaurant has lead to bad reviews and even death threats.

The owner of The Bite said it’s all a big misunderstanding, and everyone is welcome in his restaurant as they are.

The Bite owner Carlos Mortera said he and his employees take a stand on a lot of social issues.

“We support Black Lives Matter movement; we support DACA; we support immigrants coming into this country. We are open about the issues that are happening and that we support,” Mortera said.

However, Mortera said one part of the restaurant’s perceived philosophy was a misunderstanding.

In a letter to the Kansas City Police Department, an officer said an employee asked them not to wear their uniforms if they return to the restaurant.

Mortera said it happened on Sunday, June 7. He said the officers believed the employee had direction from him to say this but this wasn’t the case.

“She thought it was something positive that she was doing, which in a way was by starting a talking point, but she did it without thinking of the backlash,” Mortera said.

Mortera said the employee wanted to do something to respect the death of George Floyd and only asked if they could not come into the restaurant in uniform for the week.

The part of the email was posted on Facebook, and what happened next was a string of negative reviews. Mortera said he’s even receiving death threats.

“We need to get away from all these hatred messages that they keep anonymously calling us and leaving death threats,” Mortera said. “I understand we might have made you uncomfortable, but you should not be threatening someone’s livelihood if you don’t know them.”

Brad Lemon, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 99, said recently in an interview that it’s been a hard time to be a police officer. 

“We’re just in a really weird time in life where you can be attacked and viciously attacked in a way that people are so afraid of being involved or being known as supporting the police department. It’s just sad,” Lemon said.

Some customers said the misunderstanding won’t keep them away and even support what the employee said.

“I love The Bite. I personally know the shop, and they’re wonderful people and I stand by what they did,” customer Taylor Fourt said.

“This restaurant is a great restaurant. The people behind it are great people. They really love their community. The food is delicious, and cyberbullying is stupid,” customer Frida Lara said.

“If anybody wants to come down to the restaurant and talk to me, we can discuss anything,” Mortera said. “We can discuss why we believe in what we believe. I don’t want to change your mind, but maybe I can open it, we can open it.”

Mortera said the employee has resigned from their position. 

City Market released the following statement on the incident:

“In light of the social justice issues our city and nation are confronting, emotions have been running high throughout our community, and unfortunately, an incident occurred that does not align with City Market’s customer service principles. 

“Earlier this week, an employee of a City Market restaurant served uniformed police officers and expressed that they were welcome on return visits only wearing street clothes rather than uniforms. That employee has since taken responsibility for those remarks and has resigned from the restaurant.

“To be clear, the police officers were not refused service. City Market has always been a place of diversity and inclusion, and all our shops and restaurants welcome everyone without exception.”

Relief for KC apartment tenants who went weeks without air conditioning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Relief for residents at Gabriel Towers, after waiting for weeks. 

Around 4 p.m. Wednesday their air conditioning came back on. While residents are relieved for now they hope the air stays on, and warn there’s more that needs to be done. 

“Thank God we got it on, and hopefully it stays on,” resident, Darrin White said. 

Residents at the complex went for more than three weeks without steady air-conditioning in high temperatures.  

“Hopefully it stays on this time. You know, but who knows,” White said. “We’ve still got a bunch of issues down here that need to be resolved, and we feel like management is not taking care of us whatsoever.” 

Millenia Housing Management, who owns Gabriel Towers, said a part had to be manufactured for the broken unit. They say it took so long because there were difficulties along the way to get it fixed.

Residents say there’s a lot that needs to be fixed in the building beyond an air conditioner. 

“It’s horrible. Horrible conditions, and they won’t fix nothing,” resident, James Stone said. “The last thing with this air we couldn’t deal with. We had to stand up and try to get something done about it. There’s mold behind the wall. Water damage in the laundry facilities. The trash not being emptied when it should be. So, it’s a horrible stench in there especially from the weather being hot like that.” 

Murray Woodard II says he passed by the complex on Monday and had to get something done. 

“I called the management company, and then I went to facebook and challenged as many people as I could to help,” Woodard said. 

People did step up. Bringing cooling busses, lunch for residents, water, and KC Tenants came to help them organize a renters union to help start change. 

“It’s frustrating and upsetting, because I think most communities have a segment of their community that is invisible, and I think only something like this could happen to individuals like that,” Woodard said. 

Mid-way through the day a Millenia service coordinator was fired.

She told FOX4 as she was leaving the property it was because she was trying to get problems fixed in the building. The residents say they are standing behind her. 

“She said because she was helping us, and that’s why they asked her to leave,” Stone said. “We’re in support of her, and we’re going to do what we can to make sure something gets done about it.” 

Millenia Housing Management responded to FOX4’s request about the air conditioner, but did not address the termination of their employee.

‘I was in disbelief’: Local officer loses mother and sister in rural Harrisonville house fire

CASS COUNTY, Mo. — Original Post

A Lake Lotawana police officer is mourning the loss of his mother and sister who were killed Sunday afternoon in a house fire in rural Harrisonville

Officer John Doubledee, 22, said when he became a police officer, his family was proud. He joined the department last year.

“My sister was beyond belief excited for me,” Doubledee said. “My mom, of course, being the worrisome mother she was, if I was ever brought up in the occasion she’d say, ‘He’s a police officer and I’m so proud of him.’”

His 64-year-old mom Janet and 23-year-old sister Sarah lived together in rural Harrisonville. Sarah lived with a mental disorder, but John said she was always happy and kind. Janet took care of her and had a closer bond after her husband died.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department said it got a call the Doubledee’s house was on fire late Sunday afternoon. Both Janet and Sarah did not survive.

“I was in disbelief. There were a ton of emotions running through,” Doubledee said. “I was in disbelief. I was devastated. I was holding out all hope.”

John came back to where his childhood home once the fire was out to go through the rubble and found his father’s ashes in his urn undamaged. 

“It meant the world,” Doubledee said. “It’s just — yeah. It really felt awesome because it was the only thing left standing in the house, really. It was overwhelming. It really was.”

Julie Larsen was friends with the women for 18 years. She came back to their home to search through what’s left for items John might want.

“Janet taught me how to laugh and not be afraid of that deep belly laugh. I really miss hearing that laugh,” Larsen said.

“Sarah was the epitome of unconditional love,” Larsen said. “Every time you met her, every time I saw her — ‘JULIE!’ — and this great big hug. I missed you so much, and it didn’t matter how long it had been since you’d seen her.”

Doubledee said he’ll miss his mom and sister every day, but knows they will be together again.

“It’s going to be an amazing reunion someday,” Doubledee said.

A memorial fund is set up through the Adrian Bank of Archie. It will help the young officer pay for their services and clean up the property.

KC apartment tenants fed up after going three weeks without air conditioning

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

People living at one Kansas City housing complex say it’s been three weeks since they’ve had air conditioning. 

Residents at Gabriel Towers at 16th and Jackson say the building has a lot of problems, but with scorching temperatures, the air is the last straw. 

“It’s been treacherous,” resident Bernadette Yeakey said. “You take so many showers, and it’s not helping. You either stay outside and try to keep cool, or you try to suffer with the heat.”

Gabriel Towers is owned by Millenia Housing Management, which also owns Englewood Apartments. Last fall, the city found more than 100 violations at Englewood Apartments and forced Millenia to close one of the buildings at the complex. 

“Air comes with the building. Fleas come with the dog,” resident Rodney Brown said. “You have to take care of the tenants that’s not responsible for what happened to the building.”

Third District At-Large Councilman Brandon Ellington was disgusted by the conditions inside beyond the building not having air conditioning. 

“The conditions are horrible,” he said. “We’ve seen trash in there so long that had to be sitting in there because of the smell, water spots, mold inside of the walls with tags — meaning they came through but haven’t done anything about it.”

The city said there are no immediate health and safety violations at Gabriel Towers that would require residents to leave. 

But the city is monitoring conditions and said the air conditioning is expected to be repaired Wednesday. 

On Monday, they brought cooling buses to the complex for residents to get a break from the heat. 

“We have disabled people. We have senior citizens. We have vets. We have people like myself,” Brown said. “It is not something that you would want for your family member under these conditions.”

But these are the conditions residents have to live with. 

Millenia Housing Management sent FOX4 a statement saying they’ve had multiple issues getting the air conditioner working and plan to have it resolved mid-week. 

Residents say if you have a fan to donate, it would be greatly appreciated and you can drop it by the complex.

Kansas City man pardoned after filming woman’s arrest that led to KCPD officers indicted

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Original Post

A Kansas City man is pardoned after filming a woman’s arrest last year.

Mayor Quinton Lucas dropped a municipal conviction against Roderick Reed on Thursday in a press conference.

People around the world watched George Floyd beg for air as a bystander filmed. In Kansas City, Roderick Reed found himself in a similar situation. 

“I was in so disbelief. Like, ‘Wow. What to do.’ I was in panic mode,” Reed said. “I didn’t know what to do. I’d never seen nothing like this before.”

In May 2019, he walked by the Beauty Essence store on Brush Creek Boulevard. A store owner had called police, claiming 30-year-old Breonna Hill was causing a disturbance. He saw Hill on the ground, and two officers on top of her.

Reed said police told him to stop filming. He didn’t.

“I stood firm, and I continued to video,” Reed said. “The officer was so upset that I was not afraid to leave like he was telling me to, to keep videoing because I didn’t want him to kill Breonna.”

Breona Hill (Photo courtesy David Smith, Hill’s family attorney)

Reed was ticketed for a traffic violation and failure to obey an unlawful order. A judge threw out the traffic violation, but convicted him of the second.

Last month, Reed’s video led the Jackson County prosecutor to file excessive force charges against Kansas City Police Officers Matthew Brummett and Charles Prichard. Both officers are on administrative leave from the department.

“We’re pardoning Mr. Reed in connection with that incident,” Mayor Lucas said in a press conference Thursday when he dropped Reed’s municipal conviction.

Roderick Reed

“I felt that it’s necessary for us to move on beyond it and ensure that people now that they have a right to film police conduct, and they have a right to make sure that is shared more broadly,” Lucas said.

Reed said he would like the mayor to apologize in person. He believes it would be good for the community during this time of crisis.

However, Reed is glad he stood by what he believed in and kept filming even when it wasn’t easy.

“I feel any good American citizen would have done the same thing. I’m not a hero, even though people look at me as one, but I’m not,” Reed said.

Reed was scheduled to have the charge retried by a jury. He believes because the charge is vacated, the trial will be canceled. 

Breonna Hill was the victim of an unrelated homicide six months after the incident Reed filmed. He said he kept in touch with her for the rest of her life, and the incident with police broke her spirit.