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Crime spree brings concerns for car dealers, church school

Posted at 10:53 PM, Jan 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-03 23:53:59-05

BUCKNER, Mo. — A crime spree Thursday that left a suspect dead and the car salesman he allegedly shot badly injured renewed safety concerns at car dealerships and a sporting goods store.

The violence started around 11 a.m. on Thursday when 26-year-old Jeffery D. Millsap allegedly stole a gun from the Academy Sports and Outdoors store at Liberty Commons after being denied a sale.

Approximately a half-hour later, police said Millsap drove to the Landmark Dodge used car dealership in Independence and shot a car salesman.

The victim, who police have not identified, was recovering Friday in the hospital after suffering serious injuries.

After the shooting, investigators said Millsap drove to Holt and led officers on a chase before being shot and killed by law enforcement in the 19800 block of 172nd Street.

A day after the crime, the fallout from the violence led to concerns over safety at car dealerships.

“During test drives, we’re with people we don’t even know,” Randy Burlington, who used to work at Landmark Dodge and now works at the Matt Ford dealership in Buckner, said. “We don’t know anything about them.”

Burlington said he reached out to one of several people he keeps in touch with at Landmark Dodge after hearing about the incident.

“It only happened feet from him and he said it was the scariest thing he ever experienced,” Burlington said. “I’m just flashing back and wondering, ‘What if I still worked there?’”

The violence in Independence remained in the back of Burlington’s mind Friday as he spoke to customers and worked on finding them cars.

“Now, when I’m looking at people walking towards the dealership, I’m looking them up and down,” he said. “It’s just a reaction.”

The shooting highlights a potential danger of the job and has prompted Burlington to consider buying a gun to stay safe.

“It makes you want to start carrying,” he said. “If it comes to a situation like that, I want to be able to protect myself.”

Burlington’s concerns were echoed at St. James Catholic School, which located near Academy Sports in Liberty. The pastor there called for improved security at the sporting goods store in the aftermath of Thursday's incident.

According to Pastor Mike Roach, the church has spoken with staff at Academy Sports about its concerns before and hopes to resume that conversation.

“We don’t feel that there is adequate security within their building,” Roach said. “When this incident happened (Thursday), we were grateful that we weren’t in school. The person got away with a gun and ammunition and could easily have come over here on our property with kids on the playground.”

Roach would like to see Academy Sports take action to prevent a similar incident in the future.

“I’m hoping that they will see the need for heightened security and get on that immediately,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we’ve done everything we need to do to hold Academy Sports accountable and that they are providing a safe and secure environment.”

Academy Sports released the following statement Friday to 41 Action News: "We are strongly committed to ensuring the safe, compliant, and responsible sale and transfer of firearms. As a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), we follow all applicable regulations relating to the sale and transfer of firearms.”

Burlington said even with the suspect dead, shot by a Clay County Sheriff's deputy, the crime spree would leave lingering worries.

“It makes you want to be more aware of your surroundings,” he said.