KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ta'Ron Carson, known as "Rio," was a proud, openly gay man, according to his friends and family.
Carson was shot and killed while sitting on a bench at 39th and Main around 3 a.m. Sunday. As of Monday evening, no arrests have been made in death.
"He was very much a person who owned who he was in the world and in so doing, I believe, freed other people to be and do the same," D. Rashaan Gilmore, Carson's friend, said.
Gilmore is also the founder of Blaq Out, an HIV/AIDS awareness group. On Monday, he met with representatives from the Kansas City Center for Inclusion, One Struggle KC and other groups at the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project headquarters.
Their goal was to talk about Carson's murder and the implications for others in the community.
"This tragedy has left us heartbroken and is especially painful for Kansas City's Black and Latinx LGBTQ+ people, as Rio was well known and celebrated across these communities," the coalition wrote in a statement released Monday evening.
The press release called Carson's death a "suspected hate-driven murder," going on to cite a pattern in which LGBTQ+ people of color are most frequently targeted and killed. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, they represented 71 percent of LGBTQ+ homicides in 2017.
"For most of us, it means that we're going to be that much more careful, that much more aware...but we're also saying to the rest of the community you have a responsibility to look out for us too," Gilmore said.
If Carson's murder is deemed a hate crime, the FBI would investigate. A spokeswoman said the agency is aware of the crime and in touch with local authorities.
"It's important that we know if it was a hate crime, because if it was, we've got to do something to change the climate in this city, and part of that is really doing the work of eliminating stigma and working across sectors to do a better job of working towards not just tolerance, but understanding and acceptance," Gilmore said.
Friends and family planned a candlelight vigil and solidarity walk beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Center for Spiritual Living, 1014 W 39th Street. The group will then walk to 39th and Main, where Carson was shot and killed.