NewsLocal NewsGoing 360


Going 360: Impact of youth violence, possible solutions

Posted: 2:00 PM, May 16, 2023
Updated: 2023-05-16 19:32:30-04
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Guns are the leading cause of death for American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Kaiser Family Foundation says 4,357 children and teens died from gun deaths in 2020 — including assaults, suicides, and unintentional or undetermined deaths.

KSHB 41 is taking the topic 360, highlighting different perspectives surrounding the context and possible solutions to the issue.

In this story, you’ll hear from:

  • A family impacted by youth violence 
  • Criminologist 
  • Child advocacy center 
  • Trauma surgeon 
  • Detective overseeing an anonymous tip line 

Family impacted by youth violence shares possible solution


Monica and Brian Henderson say they share a void that can never be filled.

Their 12-year-old son, Brian "BJ" Henderson, was an innocent passenger in the back seat of a car during a gun deal when he was shot and killed.

“There’s no words that have been invented for the pain that you feel to lose a kid,” Monica Henderson said.

The Hendersons launched Project 9:14 in hopes of making sure no other parents lose their children. The initiative helps minors who are put on probation by providing housing, food, education and counseling.

Court records show BJ's shooter, who was 17 at the time of the incident, was on the last day of his probation and had not been supervised for 20 days when he shot and killed the 12-year-old.

“As hurt as we were, and still are in regards to losing our son, we still try to show some sense of mercy in regards to the juvenile and asked the judge not to put him away for his entire life,” Brian Henderson said. “The system failed him, which in turn failed us and our son."



Dr. Marijana Kotlaja researches crime and criminal behavior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She says violent crime involving kids and young adults was on the decline before 2020.

The spike being seen now is a symptom of what she calls a "pandemic hangover."

“[It] took away a lot of stability and a lot of structure for a lot of youth. And it also took away services, which is really, really important,” she said.

Kotlaja says isolation and lack of parental guidance mean more time spent on social media. More time online also means greater exposure to virtual bullying and self-comparison, which further exacerbate negative changes in youth behavior.

Easier access to guns is a significant cause of youth violence as well, per Kotlaja.

“We know across the board countries that have stricter legislation on guns are going to have lower rates of crime as well,” she said.

Child advocacy center


At the Child Protection Center, Lisa Mizell and her staff believe violence is generational and something that is learned.

“You learn that it’s okay to pick up a gun to solve your problems,” she said.

Mizell says that while socioeconomic status may play a role, other factors such as unhealthy role models and a lack of self-esteem play a more significant role.

“If you don’t want your kids raised the way that you were raised, if you don’t want them making the mistakes that you have witnessed or experienced, then we need to figure out a way to teach you to parent differently, too,” Mizell said.

CPC offers trauma-focused therapy and parenting classes to help bridge the gap with the help of Partners in Peace, a program developed by KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas’s office, KCPD and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I think a lot of attention is being given to our homicide rate, but those non-fatal shootings are equally as high, if not higher," Mizell said. "Those families have needs that are not being met either."

Trauma surgeon


The University of Kansas Health System receives an average of 300-400 shooting victims a year.

“We see gunshot victims of all ages,” said Dr. Robert Winfield. “We see everything from young children through elderly individuals. People who were involved in illegal activities to people who were not. People who sustained unintentional injuries [to] patients who self-inflicted those injuries.”

Winfield, who serves as the division chief of acute care surgery in the hospital system’s trauma and surgical critical care unit, says many of his patients end up, unfortunately, coming back.

“That point of recovery leads to the person going right back out into the environment that they were in, where they were shot in the first place,” he said.

For Winfield, the toughest part of his job is seeing the effects of humans inflicting pain on one another. Thus, Winfield says he supports programs that are designed to prevent youth violence with grants, such as Revive and ThrYve.

“The reality is that if it affects one member of our community here in Kansas City, it affects all members of our community here in Kansas City,” he said.

Detective overseeing anonymous tip line


KCPD Det. Christina Ludwig works with the Greater KC Crime Stoppers program.

Her efforts include the KC Metropolitan Crime Commission's creation of an anonymous tip line for teens due to a spike in school threats and gun violence within schools.

“We’re trying to get it into the school so that the kids know that they have a safe place to tell information that they might know about anything,” she said.

The tip line received a record number of tips in 2019, with 295 calls. While the number of tips tapered during the pandemic, it is steadily on the increase.

“We are anonymous. 100%. We are safe," Ludwig said. "And they can get a cash reward if their information leads to a felony arrest."

The TIPS Hotline can be reached at 816-474-8477 or online at