Thursday, July 29, 2010

Police will re-open 40-year-old murder case of civil rights leader


Kansas City Police will reopen the case of a prominent civil rights leader and politician who was murdered 40 years ago.

Leon Jordan was killed on July 15, 1970, outside the Green Duck tavern at 2548 Prospect Ave. Renewed public interest in the case and recently rediscovered evidence have prompted police to reopen the investigation.

Once thought lost, police have located the weapon used in the murder and partial fingerprints taken from the weapon and cars around the crime scene. The fingerprints were among some 100,000 KCPD kept in storage before the national fingerprint database AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System) was instituted in 1988. AFIS and software that enhances fingerprints could shed new light on the case, Crime Lab Director Linda Netzel said, but she cautioned about the lab’s limitations.

“We haven’t done a case of this age before,” she said. “… The staff is excited to get this case.”

Before this, the oldest case KCPD’s Cold Case Homicide Squad had investigated was from 1977.

The murder weapon, a shotgun, was located as a service rifle in a Kansas City Police car. After the case was initially closed, police released the gun to an unknown party in 1976. In 1977, the department bought it back from a local gun dealer, and it has been used as a police service weapon ever since. While the gun has the same serial number, parts of it, including the barrel, have been replaced to maintain the gun’s functionality.

The physical evidence will be re-examined with new technology, but the bulk of the detective work will be done the old-fashioned way, said Cold Case Squad Sergeant Richard Sharp. Much of it will involve sitting down and having face-to-face conversations.

“We have to see if anyone can remember this, if people are still alive,” he said. “I think this is going to be a challenge, but we can do it.”

Leon Jordan, 65 at the time he was killed, was the founder of Freedom Inc. and a well-known politician and leader of civil rights movements in Kansas City. The suspects have been described as three black men who drove a brown, late 1960s-model Pontiac. The car and gun were later found abandoned.

If you have any information about the murder of Leon Jordan, call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS.

Below is the murder weapon police found in use in a patrol car. It does not look like it did in 1970. The barrel, stock, fore stock and strap all have been changed or added.