White House sends federal agents to KC amid homicide spike

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (Courtesy Photo)

On July 8, Attorney General William Barr announced the launch of Operation Legend, “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime beginning in Kansas City, MO.”

The operation is named for 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in his sleep on June 29 in Kansas City.

“President Trump has made clear: the federal government stands ready and willing to assist any of our state and local law enforcement partners across the nation responding to violent crime,” Barr said. “Operation Legend will combine federal and local resources to combat the disturbing uptick in violence by surging federal agents and other federal assets into cities like Kansas City, a city currently experiencing its worst homicide rate in its history.”

Kansas City has had 99 homicides so far this year, a 26% increase over the 73 at this time last year.

Over 100 Department of Justice agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Marshal Service, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will be sent to Kansas City in the coming weeks to work alongside state and local agencies.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas learned of the operation through social media Wednesday.

“I learned on Twitter this afternoon that the Department of Justice plans to send federal investigators to Kansas City as support for unsolved homicide and non-fatal shooting investigations,” Lucas said. “As I understand the Department’s plan, any outside help will not be used for regular policing or patrol activities—and solely to clear unsolved murders and shootings.”

This operation follows weeks of protests over police brutality, both in Kansas City and nationwide, with one of protesters’ concerns being a militarized police force.

“I plan and hope to learn more about this effort over the days ahead,” Lucas said. “The investigative support effort announced this afternoon can be only one tool out of many, such as mental health treatment and restorative justice, in addressing violent crime.”

Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, will contribute additional resources from his office to handle an anticipated increase in prosecutions.

“I also understand the United States Attorney in Kansas City has been in contact with the family of LeGend Taliferro who support the investigation effort to help find the murderer of four-year-old LeGend and many other victims tragically killed this year in Kansas City.”

Lucas sent a letter to Missouri Governor Mike Parsons last week requesting a special session of the General Assembly to address violent crime. The homicide numbers had reached 96 at the time, and two on-duty officers had been shot the day before.

“We are at a crisis point in Kansas City and we need state legislative action on several items we have previously discussed to address our problem,” Lucas wrote.

Lucas called for senators and representatives to take “specific action” in Jefferson City on violent crime by voting on legislation to enhance witness protection funding in Missouri and address how more tools can be provided to law enforcement and prosecutors to interrupt conspiracies to commit murder and other violent acts, particularly offenses committed by felons using deadly weapons.

Parsons sent the letter to the White House, where White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany read parts of it in a July 8 press briefing. McEnany said agencies would be “on the ground” in Kansas City within the next 10 days.

After learning of Operation Legend, Lucas said he would remain committed to working on all solutions to make Kansas City safer and finding peace for all those impacted by violent crime.

“As I said in my letter sent last week to Governor Parson that was cited by the White House this afternoon, ‘[W]e will continue to pursue a broad set of social services and other tools to address violent crime now and in the future,’” Lucas said Wednesday.

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