Kansas City’s youngest homicide victim this year was sleeping when gunfire pierced the apartment he was staying at early Monday.
The 4-year boy had once survived surgery for a heart defect. The second procedure he was waiting on would never come. Instead, the damage from a bullet stopped his heart.
Legend M. Taliferro is Kansas City’s 95th homicide victim in a year on track to become the city’s deadliest in modern history. This time last year, 67 homicides had been reported, according to data maintained by The Star, which includes law enforcement shootings.
Legend was shot about 2:30 a.m. while he slept in a unit at The Citadel Apartments in the 1600 block of Bushman Road, Kansas City Police Department spokesman Sgt. Jacob Becchina said Monday.
Detectives believe the apartment was targeted, though no arrests had been made Monday.
People staying at the apartment at the time of the shooting told police they awoke to gunshots coming from outside the home. Then they realized the boy had been shot.
On the way to the scene, officers were told a family member was driving Legend to the hospital. The child died a short time later, Becchina said.
When reached by The Star on Monday, Legend’s family members said they were too distraught to speak.
Legend had open heart surgery when he was four months old, his mother, Charron Powell, said on a fundraising page in Legend’s honor. The page is listed under the name WalkingLeGend for the 2020 Kansas City Heart & Stroke Walk, which is scheduled for mid-September.
In the description, Powell wrote: “I’m not walking. I’m Heartwalking” to promote awareness about a heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, with which her son was diagnosed at birth.
“He has currently been diagnosed with pulmonary regurgitation and we are awaiting surgery time to repair his heart a second time,” she said when she set up the page prior to his death.
“My son LeGend is a trooper and lives life to its fullest,” she wrote. “Even though he is only 3 years old he give me the strength that gets me through the day.”
Laura Lopez, executive director of the American Heart Association of Kansas City, said Legend’s family has been a big supporter of the association, helping with fundraising and at times bringing 100 people to support Legend at the annual Heart Walk.
“They have gone through so much and are so brave and are true heroes,” Lopez said of Legend and his family, whom she’d met at some of the walks. “They are just a wonderful family who loves that little boy so much. The love and the care and just joy that surrounded them was almost contagious.”
Mayor, police chief, ask community for answers
“Last night a family put their 4-year-old to bed for the last time,” Kansas City Police Department Chief Rick Smith said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “Something like this should never happen in our city, and this horrific taking of life should shock everyone in our community into action.”
Police have not yet received any tips in the homicide case, Smith said about 2 p.m. as he stood outside police headquarters. He asked anyone with information on the shooting to come forward.
“There’s no such thing as snitching when you’re talking about somebody who murdered a 4-year-old,” added Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas, who joined Smith at the conference.
While yellow crime scene tape blocked off access to the front and back of the apartment building Monday morning, detectives and crime scene investigators searched an area between two apartment buildings.
A police dog was brought in to help search the area for evidence and appeared to find something, which was picked up and placed into an evidence bag.
Later in the day, one of Legend’s family members called the mayor.
“What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else?” Lucas recalled her asking.
He encouraged members of the Kansas City community to ask this question of themselves. Mentor a young person in need of guidance, Lucas suggested. Tell neighbors to put down their guns.
“The thing that would break my heart more than us not getting justice for this family, is if this murderer hurts somebody else,” he said.
A 15-year-old girl was also fatally shot in the metro area early Monday, in Kansas City, Kansas, police said. She was taken to a hospital after shots were into the vehicle she was in. She later died.
Last year, the youngest victim struck by gunfire in Kansas City, Missouri, was 8-year-old Brian Bartlett. He was killed in August 2019 as he also slept in bed when more than 30 bullets ripped through his mother’s home.
Despite pleas for witnesses to come forward, his slaying remains unsolved.
Gun violence will be the subject of a new, statewide journalism project The Star is undertaking in Missouri this year in partnership with the national service program Report for America and sponsored in part by Missouri Foundation for Health. As part of this project, The Star will seek the community’s help.
To contribute, visit Report for America online at reportforamerica.org.