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Spike In Gun Violence Stretches Kansas City Police Department To Its Investigative Limits

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3
After a violent couple of days, Kansas City Police Department Chief Rick Smith called on citizens to help end violence.

The Kansas City Police blotter since Wednesday tells the story. Eight shooting incidents. Fourteen victims. Three dead.

“Not a lot of people are going home early from the police department,” KCPD Chief Rick Smith said Friday morning at a hastily called news conference outside of police headquarters downtown.

After a relatively calm summer, gun crime has spiked in the last 10 days. Detectives are working lots of overtime and the department has occasionally called in investigators from other units.

Perhaps the biggest crunch, said Smith, is in an already overworked crime lab.

“It gets to the point that we don’t even have crime-scene techs to record and recover the property that’s associated with all this violence,” he said.

In the last two days KCPD detectives have worked:

• A murder near US-71 near Brush Creek. Tyjaun Caldwell, 20, has been charged with second-degree murder. The killing followed an argument.

• A shooting near 18th and Prospect. Police are still looking for a suspect.

• The murder of a 39-year-old Chinese national who was in Kansas City with his wife and four children to study at the International House of Prayer near Red Bridge. Curtrail Hudson, 18, is charged with killing Xindong Hao and wounding three others.

Then, early Friday morning, police were dispatched to 68th Street near Swope Parkway after getting a call about armed men breaking into a house. As they approached the house, they were met with gunfire and three officers were pinned down.

“There was an exchange of gunfire between police and those suspects in the house,” said KCPD spokesperson Sgt. Jacob Becchina. “Eventually, they did come out of the house, were taken into custody. One of them was suffering from non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.”

That shootout came just three weeks after three Kansas City police detectives were wounded by an AK-47-wielding man who murdered a University of Missouri-Kansas student from India on July 6 in an attempted restaurant robbery.

All of these shootings come less than a week after Operation Ceasefire KC held a gospel concert and gave out free haircuts to promote a weekend without murders.

It obviously didn’t work. A woman was stabbed to death early last Saturday morning on 92nd Street a few blocks north of Bannister Road.

At his news conference, Smith again asked citizens to come forward with information.

“We have got to decide that we want to put this violence to an end, work together to bring it to a conclusion,” he said.

Neither the plea nor the problem is new. But community groups say people are scared to come forward because they fear retaliation. Smith said he can’t guarantee the safety of witnesses, but the department works hard to protect them.

“We need to be cooperating with them and get rid of this attitude of 'Don’t snitch,'” said Pastor LeRoy Glover Jr. of One Truth Ministries and president of the Foxtown East Neighborhood Association. Glover said police are protecting citizens who come forward.

“But here’s the thing," he said. "Even if they don’t, we need to have the courage ourselves anyway as a community. We need to gain the courage.”

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. He can be reached on Twitter @samzeff.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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