Monday, May 13, 2019

Resources are needed to address police mental health

The Kansas City Missouri Police detective who took his own life in February was the fourth member of our Department to do so in as many years. His suicide was the first we discussed publicly because, as a Department, we decided it was time that we face this issue head-on.

We must stop treating police suicides like isolated incidents. More officers died by suicide in 2018 than in the line of duty. The rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression for police and firefighters is five times higher than the general population, according to research from the Ruderman Family Foundation. Yet only 10 percent of police departments have a suicide prevention program, according to

I’d like to think we are a little ahead of the game at KCPD. We have an Employee Wellness Unit and are working toward implementing a peer support program. But more is needed. We need a dedicated mental health professional on staff. We need a psychiatrist who understands what first responders face, has expertise in treating them and can devote all of his or her professional time to the mental health care of Kansas City Missouri Police Department members. We work with medical doctors when our officers are physically hurt in the line of duty and arrange for their treatment. Treatment for mental illnesses that are duty-related deserves just as much priority. Officers cannot properly provide for the safety of our city if they are injured physically or mentally.

We do not have a place for a psychiatrist in our budget, unfortunately. That is why I was excited to see a bill being proposed by U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley called the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019. This legislation would grant up to $7 million for state and local law enforcement agencies to, among other things, offer counseling to law enforcement officers and their families. Other permitted uses for the funds include evidence-based suicide-prevention programs, specialized training for mental health and suicide prevention, and related support services.

Many major-city police departments have psychiatrists on staff. The Los Angeles Police Department has 17 of them, for example. While our department is not nearly as large, we are the largest law enforcement agency in Missouri, serving the state’s most populous city. Our officers face the unique stresses of policing an urban environment. These range from an increased risk of being confronted by an armed suspect to a high exposure to secondary trauma, commonly defined as the stress derived from helping others who are suffering or who have been traumatized.

There are KCPD detectives who investigate child pornography on a daily basis. Others listen to children who recount experiences of horrific abuse. Patrol officers and accident investigators come upon grizzly crash scenes. They must see the bodies of toddlers who were shot and killed playing with a firearm. They see devastated families regularly. They frequently encounter people who want to hurt or kill them. Then they go home to their own spouses and children and try to act like none of that affected them. It’s a heavy burden, and it’s one we hope to ease with the help of a KCPD psychiatrist.

The Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act would provide the mechanism to make that happen. This is National Police Week, a time when the nation reflects upon the deadly sacrifices some officers have made while honoring the service of all law enforcement. We love hearing people say “thank you for your service,” but urging legislators to support this legislation would put those words into action.

This originally appeared as a guest commentary in the Kansas City Star on May 12, 2019. 

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Four people have earned $10K reward for homicide tips, none has claimed it

A year ago, in April 2018, we partnered with the Kansas City Metropolitan Crime Commission, its Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline and the City of Kansas City, Missouri, to increase the possible reward for valid tips in homicide cases to $10,000. In November 2017, we’d increased it to $5,000. Before that, it was $2,000.

The hope was the increased reward amount would make more people come forward with anonymous information that would solve homicides that take place in Kansas City, Mo., and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Indeed, homicide tips, specifically, have gone up a bit, according to Crime Stoppers Coordinator Detective Kevin Boehm. The percentage of those that are valid remains about the same, however.

Overall, tips from across the metro area to Crime Stoppers have increased by about 10 percent over the past two years. The actual number of phone calls is going down, but tips submitted online and through the P3 Tips app have gone up.

Since increasing the possible reward for KCMO homicide information to $10,000 a year ago, four individuals have submitted tips that qualify for the full reward. But a funny thing has happened: none of them has claimed the money. Maybe doing the right thing was more important. I certainly respect that, and it’s not that unusual. In the 300 Crime Stopper programs nationwide, about 60 to 70 percent of all tip pay-outs are never collected.

For some people, however, money is a great motivator. I just wanted to ensure that everyone knows how anonymous the process is for submitting and collecting on successful tips. Here’s how it works:

A tipster calls 816-474-8477 (TIPS), uses the free P3 Tips mobile app or the website to submit a tip. Crime Stoppers staff members take a tip report with the tipster referred to as “the caller” or “tipster.” It’s gender- neutral, ensuring anonymity. Once the tipster has provided the tip, they are issued a code number. They can use that code to check on the status of their tip or add additional information. Crime Stoppers sends the information to the applicable investigative element or agency. (They serve the entire Kansas City metro area, not just KCPD.)

If a tip leads to an arrest, the agency or element will contact the Hotline and inform them of the results of the arrest. That information is entered into a database, and Crime Stoppers staff recommend a reward amount. They take those recommendations to the monthly Crime Stoppers Board meeting, where the 40-plus member board votes and approves the reward amounts on each valid case.

Because it’s anonymous, Crime Stoppers can’t call a tipster and let them know a reward has been approved. The tipster must call back with their code number to check on the status of their tip. If they have the proper code and can verify the information they already gave, they are given a pay-out date, location and an additional code word. Pay-outs take place at locations throughout the metro area. Neither Crime Stoppers staff nor law enforcement ever sees the tipster.

I want to keep the $10,000 reward in the public eye for the hundreds of grieving family members who are waiting for justice in the murder of their loved one. I also want to assure anyone who may have the information we need to solve a case that they can provide that information completely anonymously and earn a handsome pay-out while doing the right thing.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

How we're working to interrupt the cycle of violence

There has been much talk about senseless violence in Kansas City, but a recent high-profile case really highlighted what senseless violence looks like and how one bad decision led to another and another. This case rightly received a lot of attention because the victim was a child, and she was shot where all children should feel safe – just outside an event at school.

A chain of tragic, senseless and completely preventable events started the night of Feb. 12 outside a high school basketball game. A 15-year-old girl was murdered in the parking lot at Central High School. An 18-year-old female student at the school and another 21-year-old woman are charged with her murder. It was the result of a dispute that started inside at the game. Instead of talking out their differences or splitting up to cool off, the suspects drove up to the victim just outside the school doors, and the 21-year-old opened fire on her. In her interview with police, the suspect told detectives she “may have overreacted and she wished she would’ve left.” She also said, “I let the fire go.”

Officers identified the suspects in less than an hour. Within 18 hours, they were in custody.

A few days later, on Feb. 16, detectives saw threats posted on social media between the victim’s and suspects’ families. They went to the homes of each to inform them police were aware of the threats and would be closely monitoring their actions. We call these Risk for Retaliation meetings. Later that night, detectives learned a family member of the victim even planned to be arrested so she could retaliate against the suspects inside the Jackson County Jail. Police and jail staff met and formed a plan to prevent that from happening.

The ridiculous violence continued at the funeral of the 15-year-old victim on Saturday, Feb. 23. Given the senselessness that led to her death and threats of retaliation, we assigned uniformed officers to watch over the funeral home and church during her services. They heard multiple gunshots in the church parking lot and saw a vehicle speeding away. They pursued the vehicle, which did not stop, ignored traffic signals and exceeded the speed limits, reaching 75 to 90 mph before it was involved in a hit-and-run collision. The three occupants of the car ran off, throwing two guns along the way. Officers caught all three occupants, and a police canine helped officers find the two loaded guns the suspects had discarded. One of the guns had been reported stolen. All three of those men – ranging in age from 19-22 – now face a variety of felony charges.

All of this violence was for what? What did any of this accomplish other than ending the life of a 15-year-old and ruining the futures of the two young women responsible for her death? What does shooting at the funeral – or any act of retaliation, for that matter – accomplish? No one ever won, the cycle of violence continued, and more lives were put at risk.

This was by no means the first act of violence at the funeral of a Kansas City homicide victim. It has occurred countless times, even in funeral processions driving on the highway. Funerals are supposed to be a time for family members and friends to remember the lives of their loved ones and reflect upon and grieve their loss. They are events that should be surrounded in respect. Yet people who perpetuate the cycle of violence in Kansas City turn funerals into armed conflicts. This is where family members and everyone in Kansas City can get involved. This is where the members of our community can say that kind of behavior isn’t welcome, and if anyone intends to bring anything but an attitude of respect to a funeral, they’re not allowed.

As a police department, we can’t make people have better conflict resolution skills. We can’t be there every time a disagreement over something trivial escalates into violence. What we can and are doing is working to interrupt the cycle of violence, like the aforementioned Risk for Retaliation work we did. It’s why our officers were conducting surveillance outside that funeral. It’s why we seek out and take seriously reports of threats of violence on social media. It’s why we’ve made a concerted effort to work with urban-core teens in programs like the Youth Police Initiative, Youth Citizens Academy and Police Athletic League. Through these and other outreach efforts, we’ve shared anger management tools and built a bridge of trust, so young people don’t try to take matters into their own hands.

But we’re only a small part of the solution. A young person who thinks a gun is the best way to resolve a dispute reached that point long before police became involved. We are doing all we can to interrupt the cycle of violence in Kansas City, but we need your help. Family members, friends and classmates: if you know a potential violent conflict is brewing, please tell us. If we know before an incident occurs, we can save lives. It’s only by working together like this that we can prevent these crimes.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

With expanding technology, perpetrators of violent crime are more likely to get caught in KCMO

Within eight hours last week, detectives solved the murder of an innocent 71-year-old woman who was driving home from work. Had her murder occurred five years ago, it may never have been solved.

Barbara Harper was driving when she was shot and killed on the Downtown Loop about 3 a.m. Jan. 17. City surveillance cameras caught the whole thing, including the license plate number of the vehicle the shooter was in. Detectives used that and several other pieces of technology – from license plate readers to ballistics – to identity and arrest the suspect. We believe he had mistaken the victim’s vehicle for that belonging to another person with whom he had a dispute outside an adult business earlier in the evening.

Our message is to anyone thinking about engaging in violent crime or who knows anyone thinking of engaging in violent crime: it’s becoming more likely every day that you will get caught. There are parts of this city where we will detect your gunshot, see your license plate and capture your face on video. And those areas are expanding.

The technological advances our department has made in the last five years made solving the murder of Barbara Harper possible. She had no relationship to her killer, so traditional investigative measures likely would have produced little information. These advances have gotten us access to more public surveillance cameras and brought us more private surveillance camera partnerships. In addition to fixed-camera partnerships with entities like the Missouri Department of Transportation and the City of Kansas City, we have mobile surveillance cameras we can move around to different parts of town experiencing high crime.

These cameras work with our other public safety technology – like license plate readers and the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system – to help us identify guilty parties and prevent crime. The Police Foundation of Kansas City funded about half of these purchases, and I am very grateful for their donations. They, along with City officials who saw the importance of this equipment, are making our city safer.

Another example of partnerships and technology at work is the greatly decreased violent crime at what used to be troubled apartment complexes. We worked with a private video security company and about 20 apartment complexes that were experiencing violent crime issues on installing cameras around the public areas of the complex properties. Police can view video from the cameras and go back to review recorded video.

Our Real-Time Crime Center is staffed almost all day, every day with detectives and analysts to view and review video footage from all over the city. Officers on the streets also can view footage from many partner surveillance cameras on their cell phones.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, our partnerships with the public through WatchKC and the Neighbors by Ring app have continued to expand our ability to find the bad guys and bring them to justice. Now more than ever, if you choose to engage in violent crime, you stand a better chance of getting caught.

Barbara Harper’s senseless murder is just the most recent of many we have solved through video and technology. We’ve used this technology not only for homicides but other violent crimes such as shootings, rapes and robberies. With this technology, there is a lower probability you will get away with committing violent acts in this city. The deterrence effect will make Kansas City a safer place for everyone. 

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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

We're following up on New Year's Eve gunfire

These shell casings were all from one address in East Patrol Division after New Year's Eve.
Officers sorted them by caliber and type.

The New Year’s Eve celebration of two weeks ago may be a distant memory for some, but police are still hard at work following up on reports of illegal celebratory gunfire. Despite our pleas and enforcement, despite an 11-year-old girl previously being killed by such behavior, and despite the damage it does to property, people continued to engage in celebratory gunfire as 2018 turned to 2019. You can see some of what it was like from Central Patrol Division by reading through our Twitter feed that night, when we did a tweet-along with officers from about 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. This year, as every other year, officers had to take cover around midnight for their protection. 

The ShotSpotter gunshot detection system covers 3.5 square miles of the city that have a high rate of gun violence and shots fired. Using that and recovered shell casings, officers found one address where 360 shots were fired on New Year’s Eve night, and they were from at least nine different guns, based on the calibers of the shell casings. In just East Patrol Division, officers recovered 180 additional shell casings from at least 13 other incidents.

Officers recovered several spent bullets from the parking spot of the East Patrol Division commander, Major Greg Volker, at the station. If he had been there getting out of his car at that time, he would have been hit. It is only dumb luck that prevented another horrible tragedy like what happened to Blair Shanahan Lane. As of noon on New Year’s Day, we’d taken two reports of property damage consistent with celebratory gunfire: one to a garage and the vehicle inside it, and another to a vehicle’s window. We know there’s probably much more out there that wasn’t reported.

From 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 6 a.m. Jan. 1, we received 301 calls to 911 about the sound of gun shots. The ShotSpotter system recorded 109 alerts during the same period. ShotSpotter can distinguish between gunfire and fireworks (there were those, too).

So what are we doing about it? We are gathering evidence so that as many people who illegally discharged firearms on New Year’s Eve (which is prohibited by City ordinance) can be issued citations if possible. It’s likely that some of those discharging firearms cannot legally possess a gun (because they are convicted felons, for example), so we are working with our federal partners to build those cases, as well.

New Year’s Eve should be a time of celebration and joy, not hiding in your basement with your children, as one terrified mom tweeted to us she was doing. We are doing our best to hold those accountable who wantonly risked the lives and safety of their neighbors.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Conclusion of the investigation into the Crimes Against Children Section

I'd like to discuss the conclusion of our internal investigation into the Crimes Against Children Unit. I think it’s very important to share what we’ve done to correct problems, protect our city’s most vulnerable victims and restore trust in the Kansas City Missouri Police Department.

Sincerely, I am disappointed. This investigation revealed issues with the organization as well as individual commanders, supervisors and detectives. I am disappointed because I know we are better than this. On behalf of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department, I want to apologize to the children and families who did not receive the service they should expect from us. I also want to apologize to the people of Kansas City, who rightfully expect their police department to provide excellent service to vulnerable victims. You will see our improvement in the steps we’ve taken to correct these problems and provide exemplary service and justice.

Investigation Findings
I’ll share the findings of the internal investigation, the cases of which generally transpired from 2011 to 2016. It identified two areas where failure occurred: at the organizational level, and at the individual level.

Organizationally, failure reached to the highest levels of this Department. There were no processes in place within this organization to address the issues of detectives’ caseloads growing too large. For example, one detective was trying to investigate 80 cases a month. Another detective said he inherited 72 cases the day he started in the unit. Their pleas for more people and more resources went unheard by command staff.  The Department also failed to ensure commanders, supervisors and detectives took adequate quality and control measures in case management, meaning how to best balance caseloads and allocate time.

The investigation also identified personal failures among commanders, supervisors and detectives. Among these were failure to address caseload issues, failure to follow up on some cases in a timely manner and ultimately failure to submit cases prepared most effectively for prosecution.

Investigative Process
This investigation took considerable time. We did not want to sacrifice a thorough review for expediency. Our Internal Affairs Unit generated 28 binders of investigative documents in this case. Working with other department members, Internal Affairs ultimately identified 149 cases from the Crimes Against Children Section that did not receive the attention they needed. On each of those cases, our internal investigators had to determine who did what, when they did it, and what was not done.  The members of the Crimes Against Children Section were given opportunity to tell their sides of the story, as well.

Those 28 binders of investigative documents were turned over to a specially selected internal work-group composed of members with various ranks and experience to review and inspect the Internal Affairs case files. The work-group members were pulled off of their regular duties and assigned to devote 100 percent of their time to review the investigation and make both procedural and disciplinary recommendations directly to me. I have reviewed the recommendations of the work group and all the case files. We have now come to a conclusion, which is why we are here today.

Investigation Results
This investigation resulted in internal disciplinary measures being recommended against 17 members who were assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section or its chain of command.  These recommendations ranged from disciplinary counseling to termination.  Of the 17 members recommended for discipline, seven are no longer employed by the Department. According to state statute, I cannot share which members received discipline, and these internal investigative files are not public record.

What We’ve Changed
When the extent of case management issues within the Crimes Against Children Section came to light, the department took the unprecedented step of removing seven detectives and two sergeants from their investigative duties. Other veteran detectives were brought in on special assignment at the beginning of 2016 to take over the cases and prepare them for prosecution. A selection process took place to identify new detectives to be permanently assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section.

Most – if not all – of the families in the 149 cases we identified that had to be re-worked have been notified of the status of their cases. If you are one of these families and still have questions, please call the KCPD Juvenile Section at 816-234-5150. 

The Crimes Against Children Section’s name has changed back to what it was previously called, the Juvenile Section. It is now fully staffed, with the addition of two additional detectives, for a total of 10 detectives and 2 sergeants. This creates an entirely new staff and chain of command for the Juvenile Section.  Staffing for this section will remain a top priority.

In April 2016, our department implemented quality control measures. We have reviewed thousands of cases to ensure both patrol officers and investigators have followed up thoroughly and in a timely fashion on their assigned cases. We also are working with department members to improve case file submissions so they have the greatest possible opportunity for successful prosecution. This has improved our processes and quality across all investigative units, not just the Juvenile Section.

Since I became Chief, all Department commanders now have undergone additional leadership and ethics training to enhance accountability and prevent complacency at every level of the organization. This is beyond our normal training program.

We took the lessons learned from what happened in Crimes Against Children and applied them across all investigative units on the Department. Both a sergeant and captain must review caseloads every month with their detectives. Whenever a detective marks a case as inactive, a supervisor must review it to determine whether that inactivation was appropriate, and a commander must review the supervisor’s recommendations.

We have enhanced our relationship with child advocacy groups and have asked them to hold us accountable. Feel free to ask them how we’re doing. We have Memoranda of Understanding with the Child Protection Center in Jackson County, the Children’s Advocacy Center serving Clay and Platte counties and the Jackson County Children’s Division. In addition to those, Juvenile Section members meet regularly with Children’s Mercy Hospital case workers.

What’s Ahead
The KCPD is working right now to co-locate our Special Victims Unit with the Child Protection Center and the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) in one facility.  The proposal includes on-site representatives from the Missouri Department of Family Services, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Rose Brooks and other social service organizations. The idea for the co-location is to have a “one-stop shop” where victims of child physical and sexual abuse, along with victims of domestic violence and adult sexual abuse, can receive all their services in one place. We believe victims will receive more comprehensive and convenient services by only having to go to one location. This co-location model is currently being used in Dallas, Omaha and San Diego with great success.

We are working with our partners to identify a location and funding for this facility. This should materialize in the near future. This partnership will enhance our ability to serve the most vulnerable victims.

The conclusion of our internal investigation into the Crimes Against Children Section marks the end of a regrettable time period in which the Kansas City Missouri Police Department failed to serve child victims in the way they needed and deserved. It is my job and the job of everyone in this organization to ensure it never happens again anywhere in this Police Department.

We have worked diligently to recover from this setback and get justice for every child in Kansas City who has experienced abuse or neglect, especially those in the 149 cases we identified. We have implemented training and numerous layers of accountability to ensure all victims get the most professional and effective investigations we can provide. Our partnerships with child advocacy organizations have never been stronger, and we are eagerly anticipating the chance to truly work with them altogether in one building. We look forward to showing you with our actions that the people of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department are now, more than ever, dedicated to serve and protect the people of our city with professionalism, honor and integrity.

Thank you,
Chief Richard Smith

Monday, December 31, 2018

As security cameras proliferate, they're preventing and solving more crime in KC

As security cameras become cheaper, higher quality and more accessible, we are seeing tremendous benefits from them in both preventing and solving crime. They’ve been in the news a lot lately for their role in capturing package thieves, but they can help us solve everything from a burglary to a murder.

The partnerships we’ve formed with the community and a security camera provider have further enhanced the effectiveness of these cameras. If you have not yet registered for WatchKC, I encourage you to do so. WatchKC is a program in which residents and businesses can let us know that they have cameras. We then put those on a map that only certain detectives can see. The detectives can ask those camera owners if they caught any footage related to crime that has happened in the area. It’s a lot faster than walking door-to-door, so detectives can use their time more effectively.

We also partnered with Ring on their Neighbors by Ring App in October. This allows us to see videos and crime information Ring users share on the Neighbors app in real time. Police cannot see any identifying information about the user, just the block on which they live. As one of our crime analysts said, “That is my favorite part of the day: looking to see if anyone added video in our patrol division.”

These pictures don’t just help us – they help neighbors look out for each other. We’ve seen increased neighborhood awareness through these cameras and people sharing what they’ve recorded on social media and apps. That makes residents more aware of what’s going on around them and leads them to take preventative measures. It also makes them more willing to call us if they see something suspicious.

People caught on camera doing suspicious or criminal things at your home or business rarely commit just one crime. These videos and pictures help us link them to numerous other crimes.

So if you got a security camera for the holidays, we’d love for you to help us solve and prevent crime by registering with WatchKC or joining the Neighbors by Ring app.

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Monday, December 3, 2018

Missouri's new medical marijuana law and KCPD

Earlier this month, Missouri voters approved Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana. I’ve heard many questions about how this will affect our enforcement activity. The short answer is: it won’t.

Amendment 2 allows state-licensed physicians to recommend marijuana use to patients. Doctor-approved patients must obtain an identification card from the state indicating they are permitted to use medical marijuana. With the card, they will be allowed to grow six flowering plants in their homes and purchase 4 ounces of dried marijuana or equivalent from a state-licensed dispensary. The state must begin accepting applications for qualifying patients no later than June 4, 2019.

The passing of this ballot measure added Article XVI to the Missouri Constitution. Part of that amendment states, “This section is not intended to change current civil and criminal laws governing the use of marijuana for nonmedical purposes. The section does not allow for the public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana.”

Because criminal laws about recreational marijuana use have not changed, neither will our enforcement. The members of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department take an oath to enforce state statutes. Until laws change, we will conduct business in accordance with our oath and the laws of this state. For felony-level marijuana possession cases (35 or more grams), we will continue to submit case files to all the county prosecutors’ offices in Kansas City, depending on where the offense took place: Clay, Platte, Jackson and Cass.

Most misdemeanor-level cases will continue to be submitted to city prosecutors. While the possession of 35 grams of marijuana or less carries a fine of just $25, it is still a misdemeanor and will be noted as such on an individual’s criminal record. The passage of Missouri’s medical marijuana law in no way changes that. It does, however, raise many other questions regarding firearms, employment and more that are beyond law enforcement.

Police do not make laws. Legislators – and in this case, citizen petitions and voters – do that. We are sworn to enforce the laws as they are written, regardless of what is trendy or popular, and we will continue to do so. If there comes a day that marijuana is fully legalized, of course we will adapt and treat it as any other legal substance that also can cause impairment.

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Giving our all to get a triple murderer into custody ASAP

We have been working diligently to combat violent crime in our city. What happened on Sunday morning was the epitome of senseless violence: in the course of about an hour, one suspect killed three people in three different places and shot two more in South Kansas City and Raytown. A 4-year-old child was among the injured. The shootings were not random and appear to be domestic violence-related. 

We immediately mobilized as many resources as possible to find and stop someone who had very quickly become a serial killer. In addition to patrol officers regularly assigned to the areas, we brought in more than 100 people - detectives from nearly all of our investigative units, Tactical Team officers, and our federal partners with the U.S. Marshals, FBI and ATF - to identify and track down the suspect. We also identified and located family members who could be potential victims and told them about what was happening so they could get to safety. Rosilyn Temple and Mothers in Charge were there comforting the loved ones of our numerous victims and helping them understand what we needed to do as police to put an end to the spate of violence. Within 12 hours, the suspect was in custody. Issac Fisher has now been charged with three counts of murder and 15 other charges.

During the course of the investigation into Fisher's location, we did something we don't do often: we asked people in the neighborhoods where we thought he might be to stay inside. We also flooded the area with police, but telling people to stay in was the best protection we could provide at the time. We know this was a scary time for some of our South KC residents, and I appreciate everyone remaining calm. I hope you know we were doing everything we could to get him into custody as quickly as possible to prevent any further violence. 

Our investigators, with assistance from the community, were able to track the suspect to a relative's house about 10:30 p.m. Sunday and took him into custody without incident. I commend the detectives and officers who gave all they had to this case. We wouldn't do this job if we didn't care deeply about the safety of our residents, and in no case was that more evident than how we came together and deployed every available resource on Sunday to find and arrest a violent individual before he could hurt anyone else.

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

August homicides, case progress and improved community cooperation

August was a difficult month for Kansas City, Mo., in terms of violent crime. There were 20 homicides. Each one of those victims is someone’s loved one. Someone’s friend. We are working hard to hold the people who commit these heinous acts accountable. Despite the influx of murders, our detectives have done an admirable job of investigating and solving these crimes. They have literally worked around the clock.

We have four homicide squads, and they rotate being on call. On several occasions this month, the Homicide Unit commander had to put more than one squad on call. At one point during the weekend of Aug. 4 and 5, every single homicide squad and detective was either on call, on standby or actively working, just to handle the workload. That caused many of them to break or change their weekend plans to handle active cases.  I want to publicly commend them for their hard work, which I think you’ll better understand when you read the below.

While all these new homicides were taking place, our detectives also managed to solve three prior cases this August, including a triple murder. We’ve outlined those below, too.  Year to date, we now have the highest homicide clearance rate we’ve experienced in the last six years. As of Aug. 31, we were at 74 percent. (That’s according to FBI’s Unified Crime Reporting definition of clearance, which credits the clearance to the year the clearance occurred, not the year the homicide was committed. So past years’ homicides solved this year figure into the 2018 clearance rate.) Consider these homicide clearance rates from where we have been as of Aug. 29 in previous years (also according to the UCR clearance definition):

08-29-18               74%
08-29-17               45%
08-29-16               63%
08-29-15               53%
08-29-14               65%
08-29-13               62%

Even in the cases that aren’t cleared, you’ll see there are few cases in which detectives have no idea what happened. I’ve seen a lot of homicide cases over the years in which detectives know exactly who the suspect is but need witnesses' help to get the evidence needed to arrest and prosecute a person. And several of those happened in August. Because no matter how good they are, our detectives cannot solve these cases without your help. We must work together to bring justice for grieving families and to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. Fortunately, the improving clearance rates are evidence that this is happening more and more.

I wanted to start by sharing the non-August 2018 cases our homicide detectives got to prosecution last month:

October 2, 2017, at 7601 Monroe, Victim Marco Green.
Suspect: William Johnson.
Johnson shot Green while he sat in the back of a car. Johnson has been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

October 10, 2017, at 4900 E. 17th St., Victims:  Jennifer and Victor Portillo, Yessenia Ahumana.
Suspect: Deaundre Brown.
Brown was present when the three victims were shot – one of whom was his ex-girlfriend – in a reported drug deal gone bad. He was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of armed criminal action.

July 28, 2018, at 8503 East 92nd St., Victim Deandrea Vine.
Suspect Xzavier McDowell
McDowell stabbed the victim, his girlfriend, to death in an apparent domestic violence incident. He has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and tampering with physical evidence.

Now, here are the August 2018 homicide cases and the progress detectives have made on them. On most of the cases that haven’t already been charged, we know who did it. On several of them, we just need the right witnesses to come forward or the right forensic evidence processed in order to prosecute. I’d like to remind everyone of the $10,000 award available for information leading to charges in these cases by contacting the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477). You will remain anonymous:

Aug. 1 -  5018 Chestnut,  Victim:  BERNICE BROWN,  black female, age 43
Officers responded to a large outside disturbance that was updated to a shooting. They found the victim in the street suffering from a gunshot wound.  Suspect Tyjuan Caldwell was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. 

Aug. 1 -  3604 Bridge Manor Dr.,  Victim:  Hao Xingdong, Asian male, age 38
Officers responded to a shooting and located the victim on the side of the road suffering from a gunshot to the back of the head.  It was reported the suspect was running down the road shooting at a vehicle with a shotgun.  Two other victims received non-life threatening injuries.  Suspect Curtrail J. Hudson was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

Aug. 2 – 22nd and Walrond,  Victim:  Tyrone Standifer, black male, age 54
Officers were dispatched to the area of 18th and Prospect on a reported shooting and located two victims inside a vehicle.  Both had been shot, and Standifer was deceased from a gunshot wound.  Police believe the shooting occurred in the area of 22nd and Walrond. Detectives have some forensic leads but still need tips.    

Aug. 5 -  1300 E. 89th St.,  Victim:  Shanterria Edwards, black female, age 26
Officers heard the souths of gunshots in the area and responded to investigate.  They found the deceased victim inside a vehicle suffering from gunshot wounds.  There is no suspect information at this time. 

Aug. 5 -  107th and Greenwood,  Victim: Cyrenaica Lang, black female, age 55
Officers were dispatched on a medical nature unknown.  When they got to the scene, they found the victim in the street, unresponsive. EMS responded and declared her deceased. It appears the victim had been shot. We have a subject of interest in this case and are working with the Crime Lab on further evidence.

Aug. 7 – 4909 East 39th Place, Victim:  Leo Woodruff, black male, age 17
Three days earlier, at 11:38 p.m. Aug. 4, officers responded to a shots fired call. Upon arrival, they found the victim lying in the street suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. Woodruff died at a hospital on Aug. 7 at 5 p.m. We have good leads and continue to identify and interview people connected with the case.

Aug. 7 – 17th and White, Victim:  Justin P. Graham, white male, age 26
A resident contacted officers to tell them there was a body in the woods. They went to the wooded area the resident had indicated and discovered a decomposed body, which was later ruled a homicide. Detectives have good leads, and the investigation continues. 

Aug. 7 – 9th and Harrison, Victim: Terriante McClinton, black male, age 27
Officers were dispatched at 11:30 p.m. on a reported sound of shots. They found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. One survived, and the other succumbed to his injuries. An argument between several people preceded the shooting.  It appears the shooting occurred at or near the park in the southwest corner of 9th and Harrison. Detectives have identified a subject of interest and are looking for him.

Aug. 8 – 6801 St. John, Victim: Brittanie K. Broyles, white female, age 28
A truck driver coming to pick up supplies near 6801 St. John reported a dead body among several telephone poles on the ground outside. The driver called police at about 9:14 a.m. Police saw that the woman was dead from an apparent gunshot wound. Detectives have identified a subject of interest and are working with other department elements on the investigation.

Aug. 11 – 6112 Tracy, Victim:  Dajuan G. Alvarez, black male, age 30
At about 11:26 p.m., subjects dropped the victim off at a hospital emergency room and left. Doctors initially thought the victim had been stabbed. He died at the hospital. The people who dropped him off eventually came back to the hospital, and police questioned them. They told police the victim had been in a fight and had gotten shot, which an autopsy later confirmed. Police have gotten several tips and have a possible subject of interest. They continue to work on getting witnesses to come forward.

Aug. 12 – 3543 Prospect, Victim:  Jerel A. Price, black male, age 27
The gunshot detection system Shotspotter alerted police to a sound of shots about 11:53 p.m. at 3543 Prospect Ave. They found the victim with gunshot wounds in the northbound lanes of traffic. Nearby security video shows the victim had an altercation with two black males, one of whom pulled out a gun and shot the victim. Detectives are trying to identify those two men.

Aug. 15 – 12550 Raytown Road, Victims: Keith Wasmer, age 25, and Michael R. Brewer, age 29, both white males
At about 12:50 p.m. KCPD officers were dispatched to the area of 12550 Raytown Road on a reported dead body call. Upon arrival, officers were directed to a remote location approximately 3/4 of a mile west of the dispatched location. This area is heavily wooded and near a trail. They located the two victims’ bodies. Despite their state of decomposition, the Jackson County Medical Examiner determined they have suffered apparent trauma and has ruled the victims’ deaths as homicides. We have identified at least one person involved.

Aug. 16 – 470 and View High Drive, Victim:  Tasheika S. Baker, black female, age 41
Officers were dispatched about 10:29 p.m. to a shooting at I-470 and Raytown Road. They looked all over the area and eventually found the victim at I-470 and View High. Lee's Summit Fire/EMS were first at the scene and transported the victim to the hospital, where she was declared deceased. Detectives are working with federal partners on a possible lead but otherwise have little to go on.

Aug. 17 – 3339 Wabash, Victim:  Morris “Mack” Clay, black male, age 66
Officers were dispatched to 3339 Wabash at 4:41 p.m. They found the victim with an apparent gunshot wound on the front porch of a house. They attempted CPR while tactical officers cleared the house because witnesses said the suspect may be inside.  The victim died. The suspect was not inside, but he had driven away just after the shooting. Officers located him, and now Marshall Celestine has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. He is being held on a $100k cash-only bond. 

Aug. 19 – 435 and Eastwood, Victim:  Gabriel J. Edgar, black male, age 36
Officers were initially dispatched at 3:41 a.m. on a vehicle crash at 435 and Eastwood. When they got there, they found the victim shot to death in the northbound lanes of 435 at Eastwood Trafficway. A tow truck driver first discovered the victim. Detectives have identified a person of interest and are working with the Crime Lab on analysis to move the case forward.
Aug. 19 – 10th and Harrison, Victim:  Dante L. Wachteler, white male, age 25
Officers were dispatched at 4:41 a.m. on a sound of shots and found the victim in the street suffering from a gunshot wound. There were no witnesses at the scene, and police have few leads.  

Aug. 19 – 14th and White, Victim:  Curtis A. Presley, black male, age 21
The victim was with a man who was giving a ride to two other male suspects – a juvenile and an adult –to buy marijuana. The suspects asked the victims to pull over at 14th and White, and when they did, the suspects attempted to rob the victims of their car, money and cell phone. The deceased victim refused to turn over his phone and was subsequently shot by the juvenile suspect. The juvenile has been charged in Family Court. Police have identified the adult suspect and are looking for him. 

Aug. 25 – 6816 Cleveland, Victim:  Raphael M. Butler-Grimmet, black male, age 17
An officer in the area heard shots at about 5:09 a.m. and saw a car fleeing the scene. Police pursued that vehicle to 7th and Rainbow in Kansas City, Kan. Other officers went to 68th and Cleveland, where they found the victim dead from apparent gunshot wounds. There were several witnesses at the scene. Police learned the shooting stemmed from an argument among people who knew each other. The driver of the vehicle that left the scene has been charged with felony eluding.  The shooter has been identified and remains at large. Officers are actively searching for the suspect

Aug. 29 – 7041 Askew, Victim: Christopher M. Cropp, white male, age 36
Officers responding on a reported shooting at 12:59 p.m. found the victim in the front yard of the house with a gunshot wound. Investigation revealed that someone known to the suspect came to retrieve property and brought the suspect with them. The unarmed victim was standing outside the suspect’s vehicle when they got into an altercation, and the suspect shot him from inside the vehicle. The suspect, David W. Worlledge, has been charged with second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Aug. 30 – 4029 Park, Victim: Joseph H. Honea, white male, age 43
The Shotspotter gunshot detection system alerted officers to shots fired in the vacant lot at 4029 Park at 4:29 a.m. They found the victim deceased from multiple gunshot wounds. Detectives have some information about the victim’s activities prior to his death, but they need more leads.

Again, you can come forward with information while remaining anonymous and earning a $10,000 reward by calling TIPS. More and more people are doing so. Because the good news is that overall violent crime – including homicides – is down year-to-date. You can see the homicide numbers updated daily on our web site. And so far, non-deadly shootings through Sept. 2 are down nearly 13 percent compared to the same time last year. This shows that our community is standing up and opposing the culture of violence in Kansas City.   

Coming up on October 6, each of our six patrol divisions will host a Citizens United Against Crime event (see the flier below) at various locations throughout the city. We hope this fun event will continue to enhance our collaboration with residents by building relationships and providing education in crime prevention.

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