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After Crown Center shooting left 6 injured, some business owners want more security

Outdoors photo showing the exterior of a large concrete building with trees in the front and two people walking in the foreground. A sign on the building reads: "Crown Center, shops and restaurants."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Two people walk in front of Crown Center shops and restaurants which remained closed early Thursday morning after a shooting inside the food court Wednesday evening that injured six people.

A shooting Wednesday night in the food court of the mall injured six people. Police say two people not involved in the initial altercation also fired shots. Crown Center resumed normal operations at noon today, but some business owners want more changes.

Businesses at Kansas City’s Crown Center shopping mall opened their doors at noon on Thursday, following a shooting Wednesday that injured six people.

Police say the six victims of the shooting — most in their teens and early 20s — are recovering and their injuries are still believed to be non life-threatening.

Stephanie Herbig owns Cheeky Bird, a vintage store that’s been in Crown Center for more than two years. She says the shooting has made Crown Center feel eerie.

“I think that you can't help but be more aware and hyper alert,” Herbig said. “And if it doesn't affect you, I think you're crazy.”

Herbig closed the store early on Wednesday due to a family matter, but said she walks around to talk to other business owners often and could have been caught in the crossfire had she been there. She said she doesn’t feel as safe walking around anymore.

Herbig believes there needs to be more follow up and security at the mall, and worries people will ignore the violence.

A woman with mid-length grey hair wearing a long-sleeved black shirt stands leaning against a counter.
Savannah Hawley-Bates
KCUR 89.3
Stephanie Herbig owns Cheeky Bird, a vintage boutique near where a shooting took place Wednesday evening. She wants more security at Crown Center.

She also said she was disappointed with the response from Crown Center’s ownership. After the shooting, Herbig says she and other business owners at the mall have only received two messages from Kessigner/Hunter & Company, which manages Crown Center: one saying there was an incident and another saying the stores would open at noon.

“I know that some of those people that were involved in those businesses were hiding and dodging bullets and watched people get hit,” Herbig said. “I think that for us to just act like that was OK since (the business owners) weren't hurt — they need some time.”

A spokesperson for Crown Center and Hallmark, which owns the mall, declined a request for comment.

A dispute between two groups

Kansas City Police shut down the shopping mall after the shooting early Wednesday evening.

Police and emergency medical responders arrived on scene at around 5:45 p.m. where they discovered two victims on the lower level of the shopping mall, where police believe the shooting took place.

Four other shooting victims were identified at an area hospital later in the evening. Several people were detained for questioning.

During a press briefing Wednesday night, Sgt. Jake Becchina, a spokesperson with the Kansas City Police Department, said witnesses told police an argument between two groups of teenagers turned to gunfire, injuring the victims and damaging businesses on the lower level of the shopping mall.

In a statement, Becchina added that two other individuals in the area who were not involved in the argument fired weapons in response to the gunshots.

Detectives identified the individuals, a visitor to Crown Center and a security employee on duty at the time, and they are cooperating with investigators, police said.

Indoor photo of a food court where steel tables and chairs can be seen. One sign reads "Spin Pizza" in the background. One sign hanging from the ceiling reads "Pen Place."
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
The interior of the food court inside Crown Center was closed Thursday morning following a shooting the night before where six people were injured.

Becchina noted the victims are all in their late teens to early 20s, except for one victim who was around 50. As of Thursday afternoon, KCPD said all victims were recovering and that the injuries were still believed to be non life-threatening.

Becchina added the investigation is ongoing as police interview witnesses and continue to collect evidence. Several individuals were interviewed at the scene and some were detained for further questioning.

Police said in a statement one individual was held on a 24-hour investigative hold and released Thursday pending further investigation.

The mall opened late on Thursday, after closing while police investigated the crime scene.

Jackson Clemens, who works at Shang Tea, near where the shooting occurred, said his manager was in the building during the shooting. He’s hoping for more reform to target the root of gun violence, and says he can still feel the after-effects of the trauma it has caused on employees and patrons.

“Kansas City has always had this kind of trouble, so I can't say I'm very much so surprised that it finally ended up shifting its way into here,” Clemens said. “I kind of figured it was going to be a matter of time.”

Clemens hopes workers and patrons will still feel safe at Crown Center, and believes it was an isolated incident.

Some experts believe Kansas City already has the tools to help prevent shootings like this one.

Paul Carrillo, vice president with the Giffords Center for Violence Intervention, said while many cities in the U.S. are seeing drops in gun violence, incidents involving guns with youth are still too common.

He said intervention, typically from ground level groups aimed to prevent arguments from turning violent, are a proven way to reduce gun violence between younger people.

“There are other factors and players in the community that contribute to peaceful neighborhoods and reduction in conflicts, like the nonprofits who meet these conflicts head on,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo said a study the Giffords Center conducted in 2022 based in Kansas City showed intervention groups like Aim4Peace effectively helped deter gun violence, even while short-staffed.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who is in Washington for the U.S. Conference of Mayors, did not address the shooting in a live-streamed conversation with Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday focusing on gun violence prevention.

Kansas City Police are asking for any witnesses who have not spoken with investigators to contact the police department with any information regarding the shooting.

Corrected: January 19, 2024 at 2:33 PM CST
A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Jackson Clemens' manager witnessed the building. The manager was in the building at the time but did not directly witness the incident.
When news breaks, it can be easy to rely on officials and people in power to get information fast. As KCUR’s general assignment and breaking news reporter, I want to bring you the human faces of the day’s biggest stories. Whether it’s a local shop owner or a worker on the picket line, I want to give you the stories of the real people who are driving change in the Kansas City area. Email me at savannahhawley@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @savannahhawley.
Kavahn Mansouri is the Midwest Newsroom's investigative reporter. You can reach him at kmansouri@umkc.edu.
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