KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The tragic shooting death of an 8-year-old boy on Saturday marked the 89th homicide in Kansas City, Missouri, this year, with each case bringing pain and suffering to the families and friends of the victims.
For Joyell Hayes, the boy’s death on Saturday reminded her of what her family went through earlier this year.
“The impact goes so much further than the 89 lives you’ve taken,” she said. “You’ve affected thousands of lives.”
Back in February, Hayes’ 25-year-old nephew, Jackie “JJ” Johnson, was shot and killed as he sat in a car in the area of 19th and Vine streets.
Months later, Hayes said the heartbreak of losing Johnson can often be tough to bear.
“It’s truly a different impact when someone is murdered versus someone simply losing their life to illness,” she said. “The pain is different. The grief is different.”
The crime still has Hayes asking plenty of questions, including how someone could choose to end the life of the man who served as a popular barber in the neighborhood.
“As a family, it’s been difficult to wrap out heads around the fact that he’s gone,” she said. “No rhyme. No reason. No true motive.”
Johnson’s story is one of more than 80 others that have impacted countless friends and family members across the metro.
According to the Kansas City Police Department’s most recent daily homicide analysis report, the homicide rate in 2019 is around 10% higher than at this time last year.
At least 81 guns have been used in the homicides, with “argument” being the leading known contributing factor in the cases.
The statistics also showed that black men accounted for 71% of the total KCMO homicide victims so far in 2019.
The death of the 8-year-old boy on Saturday sparked outrage from leaders, with some calling on the need to find ways to prevent similar crimes from happening.
Kamisha Stanton, coordinator of KCMO’s Violent Crimes Program, said much more needs to be done to make streets safer in the city.
“We’re getting to a point, and we may already be there, where people feel like this is normal and this is just what happens,” she said. “I think ordinances, gun buybacks, and talking with people and connecting with them about why there are other ways to settle differences other than pulling out a gun are all important.”
However, Stanton also echoed other local leaders when she said the main focus should be on re-examining and possibly changing state gun laws.
“If we’re going to make a real change, we got to go to a state level,” she said. “I think people should talk more with their legislators that have the power to change laws in Missouri and show them the pictures of their relatives that were killed so that you become more than just a number or a policy, you become a person. The personal effect is what makes a difference.”
With Kansas City now at 89 homicides this year, Joyell Hayes hopes a stop to the violence will one day be possible.
“It isn’t just the bullet that breaks skin or takes a life,” she said. “It is the bullet that breaks hearts and leaves lives behind.”