Pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice in Jack­son County helps fear­ful vic­tims of crime

The Kansas City Star - - Front Page - BY GLENN E. RICE grice@kc­star.com

Aka­cia Moore was ready to en­joy a late evening meal in mid-Septem­ber when she re­al­ized the restau­rant failed to put nap­kins into her bag of take­out.

Just as Moore, 25, dragged her­self off of the couch to re­trieve some nap­kins from the kitchen, four bul­lets ripped through her liv­ing room wall. One 9mm round hit Moore in the lower ab­domen.

Weeks later, while she was re­cov­er­ing at her south Kansas City home, two work­ers from “Car­ing for Crime Sur­vivors,” a new pro­gram aimed at help­ing vic­tims of gun vi­o­lence, knocked on her door to of­fer help.

“It sucks that this hap­pened to me but with this pro­gram it will def­i­nitely help me get bet­ter men­tally and in ev­ery way ac­tu­ally,” Moore said.

The Jack­son County Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice launched the pro­gram ear­lier this year, of­fer­ing help re­pair­ing bul­let holes, in-home trauma and grief coun­sel­ing, help pay­ing util­i­ties, some­times just a bag of gro­ceries.

Since it be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, the pro­gram has sent work­ers to meet with 100 crime vic­tims. One visit was to the 4500 block of Lis­ter Av­enue, where a gun bat­tle be­tween neigh­bors left homes with more than 60 bul­let holes.

“If you want to live in a healthy com­mu­nity, you have to demon­strate what good health looks like,” said Jack­son County Pros­e­cu­tor Jean Peters Baker. “That means when homi­cide be­falls a fam­ily, even non-fa­tal shoot­ings, we should

not just let them fend for them­selves and say ‘good luck.’ We need to wrap our arms and try to lift them up.”

Baker said part of the idea is to en­cour­age vic­tims and wit­nesses to co­op­er­ate with po­lice in bring­ing crim­i­nals to jus­tice.

Kansas City po­lice and other area law en­force­ment agen­cies pro­vide re­fer­rals to the Jack­son County pro­gram. Work­ers also re­ceive non-fa­tal shoot­ing re­ports from po­lice depart­ments to help iden­tify those who may need their ser­vices.

From there, trained work­ers with the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime and a vic­tim ad­vo­cate from the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice travel through­out the county to meet with crime vic­tims. Three days a week, the work­ers visit homes hit by gun­fire.

On a re­cent Fri­day af­ter­noon, Mar­i­lyn K. Lay­ton, a vic­tim ad­vo­cate, and Bran­den Mims, a com­mu­nity re­source ad­vo­cate with Ad Hoc, vis­ited the home of Myrna Tow­son, 76, who al­most fell vic­tim to a stray bul­let.

The bul­let blasted through a win­dow in her gray bun­ga­low in the 4500 block of Mon­roe Av­enue, left a quar­ter­sized hole in a liv­ing room wall, flew into her bed­room and lodged it­self in her cable tele­vi­sion box, de­stroy­ing it.

Had Tow­son not moved in time, the bul­let would have struck her. It also could have hit her son, who also was in the room.

“I thought it was a fire­cracker,” she said. “Thank you Je­sus, that it missed me.”

Her visi­tors, Lay­ton and Mims, shook their heads in dis­gust.

They went out­side to sur­vey the dam­age, notic­ing the spray of bul­lets also im­pacted the sid­ing and a car parked next door. The work­ers of­fered to help that home­owner, too.

“I think it’s nice that at least some­body cares enough to see what is go­ing on in your com­mu­nity,” Tow­son said.

The pro­gram op­er­ates this year with $100,000 in fund­ing through the county’s anti-drug and anti-vi­o­lence agency, COM­BAT.

Peters Baker said her of­fice also sought grants to pay for the pro­gram but noth­ing came through.

The Jack­son County ef­fort also can pro­vide vic­tims with a change of clothes and help clean­ing up crime scenes. Shel­ter and re­lo­ca­tion as­sis­tance also are avail­able. The Kansas City Po­lice De­part­ment has had a sim­i­lar pro­gram since 2012.

Lay­ton has been work­ing with fam­ily mem­bers of homi­cide vic­tims for 24 years.

“It is more than a job to me; it is the help that we de­liver to peo­ple,” Lay­ton said. “These are in­no­cent peo­ple and they shouldn’t have to go with­out sup­port.”

Aka­cia Moore, the south Kansas City res­i­dent hit by gun­fire in Septem­ber, said she has suf­fered from night ter­rors and has had dif­fi­culty sleep­ing since the shoot­ing. A 4-inch ban­dage cov­ers the scar where the bul­let struck her.

The bul­let re­mains lodged in her body. Sur­geons told her it will work its way out on its own.

“I say a prayer ev­ery night,” Moore told her two visi­tors from the county. “When I get up in the morn­ing, I say, it is go­ing to be a good day. If not, then I am go­ing to make it a good day.”

Hear­ing that, Mims, who also is the se­nior pas­tor at the Greater Met­ro­pol­i­tan Church of Christ on the east side of Kansas City, said he felt com­pelled to do some­thing else to up­lift Moore.

He and Lay­ton took Moore by the hand and prayed.

JILL TOYOSHIBA jtoyoshiba@kc­star.com

Shoot­ing vic­tim Aka­cia Moore, left, of south Kansas City, shows Mar­i­lyn K. Lay­ton and Bran­den Mims one of the bul­let holes in her home. Lay­ton is a vic­tim ad­vo­cate and Bran­den Mims is a com­mu­nity re­source ad­vo­cate. Moore has a scar where the bul­let struck her.

JILL TOYOSHIBA jtoyoshiba@kc­star.com

The Jack­son County pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice has a new pro­gram to help vic­tims of shoot­ings and other crimes. Vic­tim’s ad­vo­cate Mar­i­lyn K. Lay­ton, left, gives shoot­ing vic­tim Aka­cia Moore of south Kansas City a hug dur­ing a visit on Oct. 26.

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