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Lack of safe gun storage laws leaving one KC family on long road to justice

Posted at 7:00 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 20:00:50-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- "I want justice. Somebody needs to be responsible for what they did to my daughter."

Latisha Slayden is the mother of Tishawn Slayden.

Tishawn was shot in the head in 2017 while playing on a playground.

Slayden is tired of hearing that seemingly nothing can be done for her daughter.

"My daughter, she lived, but here I am now fighting for justice for her," Slayden said. 

A boy brought a gun to the playground. From where, police can't say. 

The gun accidentally went off after the child tossed it to another boy, who then picked up the gun and fired the bullet that struck Tishawn. 

That was the worst day of Slayden's life, and in just that instance, Tishawn's life changed forever.

"What exists regarding safe storage laws is nothing," said Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker.

That's why no one has been held accountable yet, not only in Tishawn's case, but in many other cases where a child has harmed themselves or someone else after accessing an adult's gun. 

"Endangering the welfare of a child, there's a potential of that charge. If a child dies, there's a potential we can bring involuntary manslaughter based on the level of recklessness," said Peters Baker. 

Each case is different, and has to fit exactly into the parameters prosecutors are given. 

Peters Baker says the "void" of available laws prevents her from moving many cases forward, a fact she says is frustrating. 

The Kansas City Police Department hasn't forwarded Tishawn's case to prosecutors because they can't recommend charges against the children due to their ages. 

Police spokesperson Capt. Lionel Colon told 41 Action News that they haven't met the criteria to pass the case along.

"The chargeable offense with potential would be some fashion of endangerment against a responsible adult proven to have had possession of the gun prior to the incident."

Colon went on to say the incident is a tragic accident and cannot comment further because it could interfere with future developments of the investigation. 

Slayden says she hears the same, that the case is at a stand-still and that police have received conflicting stories. 

In the meantime, Tishawn's life will never be the same.

The left side of her body is almost totally paralyzed. Doctors said it's a miracle she even survived, but her life is going to involve lots of continued rehabilitation. 

Slayden says their lives are turned upside down, and it seems like no one cares. 

She says she doesn't blame the kids, because they're innocent. 

"But I really believe the parents are at fault. The parents are the ones to be blamed for this. That's who I'm actually going after, not the kids," said Slayden. 

Peters Baker said there are other cases she's evaluated but couldn't get it over the legal line for filing charges.

"But those were cases where children died," she emphasized. 

Peters Baker is part of the Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, and says one of its main focuses this year is pushing for safe storage laws. 

Simply, she says, if the legislature would act and pass a safe storage law, the community would be safer. 

In 2017, lawmakers voted to do away with an eight-hour training requirement for gun owners. Peters Baker had pushed that the requirement be 12 hours. 

We reached out to lawmakers on both sides who represent Kansas City for comment on safe storage laws, but had not yet heard back at the time the story was published. 

"Somebody needs to be held accountable for it because somebody shot my daughter. What if it was your daughter? Your son?" said Slayden. 

Many victims of crimes can access compensation, which Slayden said would help, but charges would mean the most. 

In fiscal year 2018, the state of Missouri awarded money to 892 people in its Crime Victims Compensation Program, totaling $5,143,584. Of that, 224 victims in Jackson County received a total of $1,411,289. 

In 2017, the Crime Victims Compensation Program awarded 821 victims a total of $4,586,763. In Jackson County, 209 victims received $1,444,365. 

In August, the requirements to receive compensation were loosened. It's simpler to apply; victims no longer need their application notarized and there is no longer a fee.

Previously, a victim had to report the crime within 48 hours, and now there is no time limit. The changes allow victims to be compensated for more than three years and claim more than $2,500 in counseling services. 

Fiscal Year 2018 victims compensation claims awarded:

Clay County
Total Amount Awarded: $86,107
Awards Issued (approved applications): 12

Cass County
Total Amount Awarded $78,622
Awards Issued: 5

Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017)

Clay County
Total Amount Awarded $35,610
Awards Issued: 8

Cass County
Total Amount Awarded: $61,380
Awards Issued: 6