After 28-year-old Tarey Johnson was shot in the front yard of his home late last month, his family is calling for justice and an end to gun violence in Kansas City.
Friends and family gathered Thursday evening in the front yard where he was shot just under two weeks ago. His first name was painted on the front lawn in all caps, a few feet from a blue cross memorial that marks the spot. Blown-up photographs of him from recent years were placed out on the open front porch.
“The family wants justice. But I think most of all the family wants the violence to stop,” his sister Myeisha Greene said, pointing to the latest rash of killings across the city.
Johnson was a father of four, with two boys and two girls, ages 8 to 11. In recent years he worked as a skilled laborer with area construction crews. He wasn’t living the sort of lifestyle that lends toward getting shot, his sister said: He worked hard to support his family and spent time with his kids whenever he could.
They also know that like Johnson, his children will grow up never truly knowing their dad. In 1995, when he was 3 years old, Johnson’s 24-year-old father was shot dead six blocks away. For the children, Johnson’s family fears a trauma “ingrained in them forever,” she said.
“For him to be murdered in the same neighborhood he grew up in, it’s difficult. We often say things like the violence is senseless. But at this point, two generations in, now it’s redundant. It’s more of a byproduct of urban neglect, urban decay,” Greene said.
Greene said the block, where her mother’s home has been part of the family for a century, is usually a quiet one. It’s a community with families where kids come to play and hang out, she said. The neighborhood is tight-knit, she said, and her brother counted many family and friends — as well as friends who became family.
But that all ended for Johnson on the night of Aug. 28.
Kansas City officers were first called on reports of gunfire a few blocks away near the intersection of 33rd Street and Wabash Avenue around 7: 15 p.m., police have said. While officers were canvassing the area they were called to a shooting at 31st and Olive Streets.
Johnson was found there with multiple gunshot wounds. He died after being taken to the hospital.
Police have released little information about the killing in the weeks since.
Sgt. Jake Becchina, a Kansas City police spokesman, said Thursday the department has made no arrests and has no information about possible suspects to share in the case. No information is being provided outside of the department’s initial statement, Becchina said, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.
Family also still knows little of what happened. His mother, Melissa Johnson, also a resident of the home, was at work when the shooting took place. Greene, his sister, was not visiting the family home at the time.
But the family has heard from neighbors that they were there to help Johnson in the time he was on the front yard wounded. In the time since, Greene said, the community has rallied around the family to offer continued support.
Leading the vigil Thursday was KC Mothers in Charge, a group focused on providing support for the families of those killed in violent crimes. Rosilyn Temple, the founder, whose own son Antonio Thompson was murdered nearly 10 years ago, told gatherers Thursday that she understands the pain.
No parent ever “deserves to bury their child,” she said.
“This is a lot. You never get over it. You learn to live and heal through this process. Birthdays come, holidays come, your baby’s not coming back in this life,” Temple said, also calling on whoever knows about the killing to come forward and speak up.
Also speaking to family and friends, Greene said the gun violence in Kansas City is a public health crisis that needs the attention of local governments and policymakers. She said there needs to be more support for the community if the shooting is going to ever stop.
“This is our pandemic. This is a public health crisis in Kansas City,” Greene said.
Johnson’s killing marked the 103rd homicide so far this year, according to data maintained by The Star.
The Kansas City Police Department is encouraging anyone with information to call the Homicide Unit at 816-234-5043 or make an anonymous report to the Tips Hotline at 816-474-TIPS. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to arrest in the killing.