Three Days, Three Homicides — Kansas City's New Mayor Confronts Violent Reality
Updated 7:45 a.m. Aug. 4: When he was campaigning, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas often spoke of the need to fix the city's persistent problem with violent crime. Now, in the first days of his administration, he's facing the same stark reality that frustrated his predecessor, Sly James.
"We've got a problem in Kansas City. I've been mayor for two full days, and we've got two homicides," Lucas said Saturday at a hastily called press conference that included Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.
Baker announced charges against 18-year old Deon'te Copkney in the killing of Erin Langhofer, a 25-year old woman from Overland Park who was shot in the head Friday night near 18th and Main Street. Charging documents say the shooting occurred after a fight broke out at First Friday activities in the Crossroads Arts District.
Langhofer appears to have been a bystander who was uninvovled in the altercation that led to the shots being fired.
Statements on social media from Adam Hamilton, the senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, confirmed Langhofer was the daughter of one of the church's pastors, Tom Langhofer.
Res members and friends, please pray for Resurrection Pastor of Recovery Ministries, Tom Langhofer, his wife Marcy and daughter Katheryn. Tom and Marci's daughter, Erin was struck by a stray bullet fired at First Fridays last night in downtown KC.— Adam Hamilton (@RevAdamHamilton) August 3, 2019
"There is, yet again, another family for us to get to know and a victim we need to learn much about, so we can effectively fight for her in a courtroom," Baker said.
Prior to Langhofer's killing, on Thursday night, a 63-year old man identified as Michael Pittman was found dead in the street near 32nd and Indiana. His death is being investigated as a homicide.
At the press conference Saturday, Lucas said he wanted to send condolences "to the victims of every homicide in our city, in our region."
"One day it might be 18th and Main, one day it might be 32nd and Indiana, it might be 103rd Street. But it's something we cannot accept," he added.
Smith praised the response of two KCPD officers on the scene Friday night, who responded to the sound of shots fired as people who had been milling in an area near food trucks scattered.
"Out of all this violence, it's hard to say you're proud of their actions, but you are," Smith said.
The charging documents say that after the shots were fired, the two officers pursued on foot three men who ran from the scene. They eventually caught up with one of the men. The officers ordered him to stop, and the man then dropped a handgun before lying on the ground.
He identifed himself as Copkney and told police he had been the only one to fire shots.
"They [the officers] did a tremendous job," Smith said. "When everyone ran one direction, they ran the other."
When asked what might have led up to the fight that appears to have sparked the shooting, Baker shrugged helplessly.
"I don't know why young men get into fights," she said.
At the press conference, Lucas found himself answering many of the same questions often posed to former mayor James after acts of violence occurred. But in contrast to James' frequent and pointed criticisms of Missouri's permissive gun laws, Lucas said the solutions to violence were closer to home.
"I'm not going to go to Jeff City and yell at them. I think the solutions are here, and I'm going to spend every day of my tenure making sure I work on Kansas City solutions and not howling at the moon in some place I can't control," he said.
Just four hours after that press conference, however, Lucas was responding to news of yet another killing.
Saddened to hear reports of another shooting death already this evening off of 55th St. More life lost and family lives shattered. We’ll find a way out of this. We must.— Mayor Q (@QuintonLucasKC) August 4, 2019
Kansas City police later confirmed that a 26-year old man, identified as John Noel, Jr., was shot and killed near 55th Street and Prospect.
A police statement says the victim was found in the driver's seat of a car that had come to rest after rear-ending a shuttle bus. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
A female passenger was also critically injured in the shooting and was taken to a hospital.
Kyle Palmer is KCUR's morning newscaster and a reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @kcurkyle.