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'Put the guns down': LeGend Taliferro's family gathers 1 year after boy's death

Legend Taliferro Balloon Release One year later
Posted at 10:27 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 15:12:44-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One year ago, a Kansas City, Missouri, family lost their 4-year-old boy because of gun violence.

LeGend Taliferro was shot and killed while sleeping in a fort made of pillows and covers in his own home. Someone sprayed their house with bullets, and LeGend was the one who paid the price.

Now, family members say LeGend's story needs to help others realize gun violence is not the answer.

For LeGend's father, Raphael Taliferro, the death of his son seems like yesterday.

"I really haven't got to wrap my mind around it," Raphael Taliferro said. "I just mean, trying to figure everything out right now."

LeGend was his first-born son.

"Playing basketball every day, that's what I miss most," Raphael Taliferro said. "That's – that's my everything. I miss everything about – ain't nothing most I miss about him, I miss everything. That's my baby."

The young boy overcame a heart defect only to be taken by gun violence.

"I really would like for everybody to put the guns down, figure out a different way to communicate," Lynette Smith-Powell, LeGend's grandmother, said. "It doesn't always have to go to this level. [It] just shouldn't happen."

Following LeGend's death, the Department of Justice launched an initiative in his namesake to curb violent crime by sending a surge of federal law enforcement to help local police.

Under Operation Legend, 196 people were federally charged in Kansas City, Missouri –107 for firearms, 75 for drugs and 14 others for violent crimes.

"There are people that were put behind bars that needed to be put behind bars," Smith-Powell said. "If you're sitting there and you know your son is out here selling drugs or your son shot this person or whatever, and you keep them quiet about it, you're part of the problem. Period."

But LeGend's death was one of 179 in 2020 – a record breaking year.

Currently, the city's homicide pace is below what it was this time last year, and Smith-Powell said she hopes it stays that way.

"You should not always come down to guns and gun violence," she said. "It just shouldn't happen. And I feel like a lot of stuff starts at home, when you sit there, and you have those conversations with your kids."

Also on the anniversary of LeGend's death, the detectives and FBI agent who helped solve his murder received an award when the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department honored more than 50 officers for acts of heroism.

The detectives in LeGend's case, including Det. Danny Thomas, received a certificate of commendation. Thomas said any case involving a young child hits differently.

"When I'm standing over that child, it really hit home," Thomas said. "I'm not going to lie. We really want to solve that case for the family, and being a father, you want to solve that case even more."

Ryson Ellis was charged in LeGend's death in August. His jury trial is set for January 2022.

This case has gained national attention for more than a year.

Here is a full timeline of the case and its ties to the current talks about violence in Missouri:

For jurisdictions that utilize the Greater Kansas City Crime Stoppers Tips Hotline, anonymous tips can be made by calling 816-474-TIPS (8477), submitting the tip online or through the free mobile app at P3Tips.com.

Annual homicide details and data for the Kansas City area are available through the 41 Action News Homicide Tracker, which was launched in 2015. Read the 41 Action News Mug Shot Policy.