After a deadly night for police officers in Dallas, a frustrated Sly James addressed reporters at Union Station Friday morning.
“You’ve got police officers being shot at from high altitudes by people with killing machines,” says James. “Weapons that were meant for war. The type of weapon I used when I was in the Marine Corps.”
Five officers were killed and seven wounded in Dallas Thursday night after an otherwise peaceful rally to protest the deaths of two black men at the hands of police.
“The bottom line is none of these folks should have died,” James says. “Not a single one. It wasn’t necessary.”
As he often does, James says he feels hamstrung by Missouri gun laws, which in his opinion does little to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those intent on causing harm.
“I can’t tell you it won’t happen here,” James says. “I can tell you I don’t think we have the tinder and the gasoline and the matches that close together that it’s going to happen here. But it could.”
James also expressed measured confidence in Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forté, who he says has worked to diffuse tension during Black Lives Matter protests here.
In a statement on the Chief's Blog, Forté said the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department joined agencies from around the country in expressing sympathy for families and colleagues of the fallen officers in Dallas.
"We know those officers were killed running toward gunshots. That is what police do, and I know our officers would do the same because they have."
Forte went on to say he was proud of his department for working well with communities and for embracing change "when faced with more scrutiny and danger than ever before."
Pastors meeting in Kansas City for the Missouri Conference of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church emphasized the need for mutual respect and calm.
"Black lives matter but police lives matter, too," said Rev. Michael Murray from the pulpit of Metropolitan AME Zion Church on 28th and Prospect.
Pastor Ken McCoy, of Progressive Metropolitan AME Zion Church in St. Louis said he wasn't interested in assigning blame.
"Dead is dead," he said. "Those individuals are not coming back."
He went on to list some things that needed to change to curb the violence.
"We have to get our legislators to pass meaningful gun control laws, give police a raise because they don't get paid enough to risk their lives the way they do, and we need to deal with the issue of race," McCoy said.
KCUR reached out to local activists and Black Lives Matter group One Struggle KC for comment, but did not receive a call back.
Kansas City, Kansas, Police Chief Terry Zeigler, whose department lost a police detective earlier this year, says he’s working on a plan to keep officers safe but doesn’t plan to go public with those details.
“Here’s the danger: For any chief to get on TV and say here’s what we’re going do and here’s the tactics were going to use, that’s just been broadcast to anybody that’s wanting to do harm,” he says.
Zeigler says there’s been an effort to demilitarize the police, but he’s worried it’ll put his officers in greater danger.
“If there’s equipment out there that helps make our officers safe, then why wouldn’t we provide it to them? And yeah, the public might not like the fact that our guys are wearing a bulletproof vest that they can see on the outside of their uniform, but the fact is that it’s protecting that officer, who still has a family to go home to,” Zeigler says.
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley. Brian Ellison also contributed to this report.