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Archive for June, 2018

Three long days ago — a day after Jason Kander announced he was running for mayor — I offered my first prediction on which two candidates would make it past the April 2019 primary and into the June general election.

Three long days ago, I said I thought it would be Kander (naturally) and 6th District at-large councilman Scott Taylor, who has by far the biggest campaign war chest — more than $350,000.

I’ve now revised my thinking. This is going to be a race where the top two contenders have ready access to, and a reasonable expectation of getting, big blocks of votes. By that I mean geographic blocks — such as the Northland or the Ward Parkway corridor — and cultural or racial, such as African-American, Catholic and gay.

If all nine candidates who have announced stay in the race, big blocks of votes are going to be hard for any of the candidates to come by. For example, the three African-American candidates — council members Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed and Alyssia Canady — can expect to divide the black vote.

Meanwhile, Phil Glynn and Steve Miller have deep Catholic roots, particularly in Visitation parish, and they will split the Catholic vote. (To show you how micro-cosmic this can get, one insider told me he thought the Catholic vote hinged on how members of St. Thomas More Parish in south Kansas City voted.)

On a more macro-cosmic level, eight of the nine candidates live south of the Missouri River. Those eight will be clawing and scratching for the largest piece of the political pie, geographically speaking.

The second biggest geographic area, of course, is the Northland, that is, all of Kansas City north of the Missouri River.

But where the eight from the south will be contesting that part of the vote, there is only one candidate from the Northland. That’s Scott Wagner, a solid council member who has been elected twice citywide and has an unblemished personal record and a reputation for getting things done not only in the Northland but south of the river, as well.

The geography tilts very strongly in Wagner’s direction; he should get the lion’s share of votes cast in the Northland, which would give him a big boost toward getting into the general election.

My conclusion and revised prediction: Kander, who has far and away the best name identity of any of the nine and who will draw from all geographic areas, should win the primary handily, with Wagner finishing second.

(I’m going to attach a cautionary addendum to this prediction. There is nothing to stop one of the big dogs, like Kander or Taylor, from recruiting one or more stalking-horse candidates from the Northland to enter the race with the aim of cutting into Wagner’s advantage. That could pose a problem for Wagner, who would have to move quickly to call it out and debunk any interlopers.

**

I had a long phone conversation with Wagner today, and, it was instrumental in me revising my earlier prediction. I also came away convinced Wagner will be a strong candidate not only because of his substantial geographic base but also because of his strong grasp of, and experience working on, major city issues.

For example, he was a leader in pushing for the successful $800-million general-obligation-bond election that includes $150 million for sidewalk replacement citywide. (The plan calls for more than $7 million a year for 20 years.) Before the G.O. bond proposal came along, city residents had to pick up the tab for replacing their sidewalks. That stuck in just about everybody’s craw, and Wagner began planting the seeds for change several years ago, which resulted in the bond proposal.

Looking toward the primary, Wagner is armed with a sound strategy and a strong message.

His strategy hinges on winning at least 30 percent of the Northland vote and picking up pockets of votes south of the river. The fact that he has been on citywide ballots twice — in 2011 and 2015 — will assure him of some support there. In that sense, he will be pulling votes from the eight other candidates, whose hopes hang unconditionally on south-of-the-river votes.

In fact, Wagner is probably the only candidate who may have benefited from Kander’s entry into the race, at least as far as his chances of surviving the primary. And if Wagner is fortunate enough to make it to the general election, Kander’s advantage in name identity will quickly be reduced, as the searing arc lights of the media will focus on the two people left standing.

Wagner’s message basically boils down to this…and I quote:

“If the mood of the people is they want a candidate who knows what they’re doing and has a vision, well, here I am.”

Running for mayor, he said, is “not about buzz words” and is not a “coronation”; rather it’s about “understanding the issues and having the patience to work through them.”

“If there’s anything I’ve proven,” Wagner continued, “it’s that I’m willing to do the work; I want to do the work.”

That is unquestionably a strong message, but he’s going to need money to get it out. He is off to a slow start on the fund-raising (he says the mid-July report will show him with at least $40,000) and needs to accelerate the pace very quickly.

He acknowledged in our conversation that Kander’s entry added an urgency to the financial dimension, but he believes he will raise enough money to be competitive in the primary. And just as the name-identity situation would even out if Wagner got into the general, so would the disparity in campaign contributions. In any big race, many large contributors tend to cover themselves by giving to both candidates.

**

One last thing…I said in my last post that I’ve contributed $500 to Phil Glynn and $250 to Scott Taylor. I’ve now pledged $250 to Wagner. From there, I will assess how the race shapes up, and I’ll be giving more — but probably not to any of the other candidates, and certainly not to Kander.

Like Wagner, I hate the idea of a coronation, which is what Kander is seeking. I want to see a hard-fought primary, with the two candidates who make the strongest cases based on their knowledge of city issues and their willingness to roll up their sleeves going on to battle it out to succeed Sly James.

[I apologize for not being able to publish a photo of Scott Wagner. My computer, with my photo files, is in the shop. My thanks to the Kansas City Public Library for making this post possible.]

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The musical chairs are still turned upside down and scattered around the room in the aftermath of Jason Kander’s announcement this week that he’s running for mayor next year.

The last couple of days, I’ve been talking to people attuned to the warp and weft of city politics, and some compelling story lines are unfolding. Here are two of the best.

**

The mayoral candidate who may have been most shocked — and was certainly the most disappointed — at Kander’s announcement was businessman Phil Glynn. Glynn is one of five candidates, including Kander, under 40 years old. Glynn and Kander have been friends for many years, and I’m told they made a pact several years ago that they would never run against each other.

Glynn announced his mayoral candidacy last year while Kander was toying with the idea of running for president. Glynn was so confident his and Kander’s aspirations would not clash that he hired a longtime Kander ally, Abe Rakov, to work on his mayoral campaign. Then, a week ago Monday, Kander called Glynn and said he wanted to meet him for coffee.

That’s when Glynn found out for sure that Kander would be running for mayor. Understandably, Glynn felt betrayed. The meeting ended with Glynn saying, “We’re finished” — or something to that effect. He also fired Rakov and immediately blocked his campaign computer access so Rakov could get no more information about the campaign than he already had — which, of course, was substantial.

Phil and Elizabeth Glynn

Glynn, who co-owns with his wife Elizabeth a firm that finances and supports housing and economic development projects in American Indian communities, left the meeting more determined than ever to pursue the mayor’s office.

The fact is, though, he is — and always was — going to have a difficult time. Some people who have watched city politics for a long time say he is simply reaching too high too soon; that he should have run for the 4th District City Council seat and served at least one four-year term before indulging in his bigger political ambitions.

In addition, he has deep roots in Visitation Catholic Church and even has political competition there. Another mayoral candidate, Steve Miller, a lawyer who is former chairman of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, has equally deep roots in Visitation. The two will not only be tapping some of the same potential campaign donors, they will be splitting much of the Catholic vote.

…I’ve known Phil since he was a youngster, and he’s a solid, substantive, smart person. I’d like to see him become mayor some day, but I fear the experienced observers are right: He’s going after the biggest political job in Kansas City with very little name identify and without having started out on a lower political rung.

(In the interests of disclosure, I’ve contributed $500 to Phil’s campaign. I said it was $250 in my last post but went back and found out that was wrong.)

**

Down ballot, Kander’s 7.0-Richter-scale quake is sending tremors into some City Council races, particularly the 4th District race.

The 4th District incumbent is Jolie Justus, who had announced she was running for mayor and may have had Mayor Sly James’ support, at least his quiet support.

May have, that is, until Kander came along…and now Sly is reportedly backing him.

Justus was so freaked she immediately jumped out of the mayor’s race and announced, instead, she would seek re-election to the 4th District seat. (Katheryn Shields is the 4th District at-large council member, and she should have no problem getting re-elected.)

At least three candidates had already announced their intention to run for the 4th District seat, however, on the presumption it would be an open seat, with Justus running for mayor.

The field included Jared Campbell, Matt Staub and Geoff Jolley.

With the shell game going at full speed, Campbell and Staub quickly bowed out. But not Jolley, a 41-year-old Kansas City fire fighter who also is a lawyer, has a consulting company and, until April, worked for U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. 

Geoff Jolley

Just as Phil Glynn refused to stand down, Jolley determined he, too, was going to stay in the race. That, in itself, took guts, but Jolley went further, publicly taking a shot at Justus for turning tail and seeking safe haven in the councilmanic seat.

“Running for any office is about serving the community, not about having a seat until something else comes along,” Jolley said in a statement.

…I met Jolley, a Northeast Kansas City resident, at a fund-raiser Wednesday evening for Katheryn Shields. He’s very impressive — relaxed and straightforward — and projects a quiet confidence. Some insiders now think he has a good shot at beating Justus. Some of the same people say that as she turned her attention to the mayor’s race, she lost touch with her district and her constituents there.

Perhaps some of you saw the comment of reader Vern Barnet, a minister and founder of the Kansas city Interfaith Council, on my last post. Barnet said:

“Jolie Justus has been a disgrace, faithless to her constituents…repeatedly failing to answer even friendly constituent mail, and dragging her feet on the Westport merchants’ sidewalk vacation proposal. Her shaky ‘leadership’ on the airport mess (working outside normal protocol for a project that should have been widely bid at the start) indicates ambition but little dedication to the citizens of Kansas City and more to where the big bucks are.”

Ouch!

If Vern’s opinion is widespread, Justus could be in big trouble.

…Hang on, everybody, it’s going to be a crazy-fun, wild ride to the April and June city elections.

 

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There’s a term in horse racing called dropping in class. It’s when a horse that’s been running (but usually not winning) at a high level drops down into the “claiming” ranks, where it can be purchased before a race for an established claiming price.

Sometimes the connections of a horse being dropped down in class are trying to “steal” a lower-level race, and sometimes they are successful. Bettors are often leery, however, because they are suspicious about the reasons for the drop and they wonder if perhaps the horse is injured or gone off form and can’t win at the higher level any longer.

That’s the situation that has materialized in the Kansas City mayor’s race with Jason Kander’s announcement yesterday that he is running for mayor next year.

His jumping into the race is the equivalent of a horse that has been running in stakes races — the highest level of racing — suddenly dropping into the claiming ranks and trying to steal a win.

Before he got in, the mayor’s race had a nice field of candidates, including several City Council members and a couple of substantive outsiders. It would have been a very competitive and interesting race without Kander, but he has shattered the picture frame and is redrawing the picture itself.

Already, one person who wouId have been competitive, Councilwoman Jolie Justus, has dropped out of the race and thrown her support behind Kander. Other candidates have probably lain awake the last few nights, mulling their options and their altered prospects.

After The Star reported last week that Kander had told people he intended to run, I wrote that I didn’t think he could win…Well, that was a knee-jerk reaction based on wishful thinking because I had already contributed to two mayoral candidates, and I didn’t like the prospect of the high-flying Kander swooping in and scuttling the existing scenario.

I am very suspicious about Kander’s intentions. He had been reported to be considering running for president…president of the United States. And now, today, he’s running for mayor.

So what gives?

He told The Star’s Steve Vockrodt that during the long period he was mulling his options, he was “thinking about how to impact my community most and whether that was in public office.” Running for mayor, he decided, was an opportunity to serve Kansas City “particularly at a time when I think it’s real important that we have somebody who can continue the progress that’s been built.”

That’s nice, but it doesn’t explain his sudden shift. CNN captured the depth of the head-scratching switcheroo when it published a story that started like this…

“Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander has been traveling to early primary states, hiring staff members and getting to know national Democrats all in preparation for a run for …. mayor of Kansas City.”

**

I wish I could give you some insight into Kander’s change of heart, but I have no inside information. Last week, a City Council candidate — a man who has since decided not to run — suggested Kander was simply looking for a high-profile position while he bided his time and waited and watched for a bigger opportunity.

That strikes me as the most likely scenario. It doesn’t make sense that he has abandoned his national ambitions. Nothing has happened to dim his prospects. He’s a Democrat, and things are looking promising for the Democrats in the near term.

One thing is clear, however, from Kander’s announcement: He’s been laying the groundwork for this bid for at least several weeks. In the announcement, he quotes a wide array of people who are supporting his mayoral bid.

Besides Jolie Justus, the list includes former Mayor Kay Barnes; Dr. Emanual Cleaver III, senior pastor at St. James United Methodist Church and son of U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II; former Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president Cici Rojas; former Jackson County legislator Mamie Hughes; Missouri House minority leader Gail McCann Beatty; state Sen. John Rizzo; City Council members Theresa Loar and Kevin McManus; former City Council member Cindy Circo; and former councilman and president of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Jim Heeter.

That is an impressive list, and it suggests problems for at least four other mayoral candidates — the three African-American candidates and Councilman Scott Taylor.

The African-American council candidates are Quinton Lucas, Jermaine Reed and Alissia Canaday. Lucas is the strongest of the three, but all three might as well fold their tents because the above list tends to indicate Kander has wrapped up the support of Freedom Inc., the city’s potent African-American political organization. Beatty, the House minority leader, ranks very high in Freedom, and Freedom would never go against Emanuel Cleaver II, who, we can assume, is in Kander’s corner.

Moreover, a source who has excellent tentacles into City Hall told me today he believes Kander also has the blessing of Mayor Sly James. That would make sense, otherwise Justus, James’ closest ally on the council, would not have bailed so quickly and endorsed Kander.

Scott Taylor, 6th District at-large councilman, also has to be squirming after seeing his friend and in-district counterpart, Kevin McManus, line up with Kander.

Before today’s cannon shot, Taylor was probably considered the leading contender for mayor. He’s been an excellent councilman and, mainly because he has the support of the development community, has been able to amass a campaign treasury of more than $350,000 — far more than any of the other candidates.

Money is now going to be a  problem for Taylor and probably every other candidate. Kander should have no trouble raising $1 million or even $2 million, and all the other candidates can expect to be scratching for every dollar they can get.

**

The candidates I have contributed to are Taylor ($250) and businessman Phil Glynn ($500), whom I’ve known since he was a kid and whose parents, the late Kevin and Judy Glynn, were friends of ours.

I was also considering contributing to Jolie Justus and Councilman Scott Wagner, another announced candidate.

In addition, I like Quinton Lucas very much, and I admire another non-council candidate, lawyer Steve Miller.

Now I don’t know what I’m going to do. The top two finishers in the April primary will go on to the June general election. If I were betting, I’d bet on Kander and Taylor to come out of the primary, with Kander getting a significantly larger percentage of the votes. I expect he will then be the odds-on favorite to win the general election and become Kansas City’s next mayor.

…I don’t like it, though. Something about it rubs me the wrong way. At the track, I’ve always been circumspect about horses dropping in class, and sometimes those horses don’t steal the race. Sometimes they break out of the gate and labor all the way around the track. That’s why they run the race…and why the bettors never know for sure, even when they think a race is a lock, that the favorite is going to win.

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I went down to northwest Arkansas Thursday for two days (Friday and Saturday) of the Walmart Northwest Arkansas LPGA Championship.

I love going to that tournament, which is held annually, partly because it’s an easy drive — about four hours — and also because Walmart does a fantastic job of organizing the tournament and making it a pleasurable experience for the public. As an example, there’s none of the gouging you see at major league baseball or NFL games. At this tournament, a soda costs $2 and bottled water $1, unless the weather is oppressive, and then they give the water away.

I missed the tournament the last two years — in 2016 because of upcoming knee-replacement surgery and last year because of a conflict — and was eager to return. The tournament is held at the Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, just south of Bentonville, where, in 1950, Sam Walton opened a “Five and Dime” store, which led to more stores and, of course, Walmart.

Before heading to the golf tournament, I spent Friday morning in and around the Bentonville town square. Over the last 30-plus years, I have watched Bentonville develop from a drive-through town on U.S. 71 (now Interstate 49) to a lively, appealing city with a blend of new, old and updated buildings on the square and adjacent to it.

Nearby, of course, is the fabulous Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, developed by Alice Walton through the Walton Family Foundation. (I didn’t get to the museum this trip.)

Are you ready for some photos?

I thought so…

Part of the square. The Spark Cafe Soda Fountain is on the ground floor of the three-story building at left. Walton’s first Five and Dime is next door.

The soda fountain was doing good business.

In The Cafe is a photo of young Sam, in about 1950, making ice cream at his first Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, AR.

An old hotel off the square has been converted to a bike shop.

The new City Hall and the old one (left)

A block off the square is the ultra-modern 21c Museum Hotel. The hotel opened in 2013. 21c, which is out of Louisville, KY, is close to completing a renovation of the Savoy Hotel and Grill in downtown Kansas City.

The hotel lobby

Now to the golf…

The winner (on Sunday) was Nasa Hataoka of Japan, but I followed a group that included Aryia Jutanugarn of Thailand (front) and Anna Nordqvist of Sweden.

The third player in the group I followed was Minjee Lee of Australia.

Pinnacle Hills, which lies within a gated community, was designed by the late Donald Sechrest, who was born in St. Joseph and designed more than 90 courses, mostly in the Midwest. One of his courses is Heritage Park in Olathe. A daughter of his, Kelly Wilson, lives in the KC area.

The group of Jutanugarn, Lee and Nordqvist heads toward a hole (batween the sand traps).

Nordqvist setting up to drive

If this guy looks familiar to some of you, it’s because he’s the 29th-ranked golfer in the world — Kiradech Aphibarnrat. Kiradech — who is called “Barn Rat” for short — was taking a week off the men’s tour and was in Arkansas to root for fellow Thai golfers Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn. He’ll be back on tour this week at the Quicken Loans National in Potomac, MD. (If you’re wondering, yes, I introduced myself.)

 

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It seems like there’s never a lack of action and major developments in Kansas City — even if some of it, like police shootings and sheriff’s deputies getting shot by inmates, is tragic.

But that’s the way it is in most large, urban areas, and we deal with it.

Let’s take a look at some recent developments…

Police shootings

Am I wrong or were the two recent police shootings — which occurred about an hour apart and left three people dead — about the weirdest incidents you could imagine?

In one case, a crazed Northland woman armed with a sword and apparently impervious to pepper spray, beanbag projectiles and maybe even tear gas was killed when she allegedly charged at Kansas City police officers.

If, indeed, 28-year-old Ashley Simonetti “ran toward officers with the sword,” as the police public information officer says, it’s understandable that they fired at her. If, however, she was confined to a garage where she had holed up, then, I think, police should have exercised more patience.

Simonetti

As I understand it, the standoff lasted three or four hours. In a case like that, it seems to me, the more time you can buy, the greater the likelihood of an incident ending with no one getting killed. Among other things, I’d like to know if Simonetti’s mother, other relatives, friends or maybe counselors had been summoned. The woman was obviously on hallucinogens and undoubtedly felt alone, trapped and paranoid. Had someone who knew her been summoned — and I’m not completely sure they weren’t, but police did not say they were — she might have calmed down and agreed to surrender.

In the other case — almost crazier — a guy armed with a semi-automatic handgun robbed a uniformed security guard of personal items and a golf cart near Barney Allis Plaza, and then he and another guy — a homeless man — got into a prolonged, multi-phase fight, with the handgun being waved around and fought over.

Again, if what police say is true — that 33-year-old Timothy Mosley pointed the gun at officers while he and 34-year-old Robert A. White were fighting — I can understand why officers began firing, with both men getting killed.

It’s extremely puzzling to me, however, how Mosley would have been able to intentionally point the gun at officers while, as The Star says, he and White were “physically intertwined.” It would seem to me that Mosley would have his hands full trying to maintain control of the gun and fend off White at the same time.

I’m not saying what the officers did in either case was wrong, but the police public information officer’s account of both incidents doesn’t put my concerns to rest.

I hope more information — more witness accounts — are forthcoming.

Sex-abuse cover-up

Despite its stated intention to clean up its filthy house, the Catholic Church continues to try to sweep priest sexual abuse under the rug.

The Star’s Judy Thomas, who has been all over this story for years, reported yesterday that a priest in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, John H. Wisner, was defrocked for inappropriately touching at least three men (boys back then) in the early 1980s.

Here’s the kicker, though: Archibishop Joseph F. Naumann quietly “laicized” Wisner last December, but it was not announced in The Leaven, the archdiocesan newspaper, until May 25.

Five months! That’s how much time elapsed between Naumann’s action and its public revelation. And even then, the archdiocese didn’t bother to inform  The Star — the area’s primary news organization — but instead reported it in the “in-house” paper that goes to Catholic households in the archdiocese.

…I’ve still got quite a few Catholic friends, but I’ll tell you I just don’t understand how they rationalize staying in the church. Its unwillingness to accept responsibility and to openly and quickly acknowledge newly uncovered cases of clerical assault and impropriety disqualifies it, in my view, as an organization worth people’s allegiance.

Jason Kander for mayor

Jason Kander for mayor? Give me a break. This guy is looking for a high-profile holding spot while scouting for bigger bodies of water to fish.

In The Star’s story about Kander perhaps announcing for mayor next week, on City Council candidate, Matt Staub, put it this way:

“(T)his seems like a move for the highest-profile office he thinks he can grab. He’s not been a real presence in the KC community for awhile while other candidates have been focused on city issues for years.”

I hope Kander comes to his senses and decides not to run. I don’t think he can win, anyway. Several outstanding candidates who know city government a lot better than Kander are already in the race and stand a much better chance of getting elected.

That group includes City Council members Scott Taylor, Scott Wagner and Jolie Justus and outsiders Phil Glynn, a businessman who was formerly on the city’s Tax Increment Financing Commission, and Steve Miller, a lawyer who formerly was chairman of the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission.

Step aside, Jason, and let the people who know a thing or two about pot holes, streetcars, sewer-system upgrades, convention hotels and airport contracts lead the way.

Streetcar expansion

Voters’ 3-to-1 margin approval of the southward streetcar expansion should put to rest, once and for all, the question of whether leading streetcar opponents have any more of a constituency than pitiful Clay Chastain.

I’m talking, specifically, about lawyer Sherry DeJanes and Loose Park-area resident Dan Coffey.

Those two had months to build and wage a campaign against the streetcar expansion, and what was the result? A 2,529 to 858 drubbing.

I’m publishing their pictures so that if you see them and they offer to sell you some stock in a beefsteak mining company, you’ll know to run the other way.

DeJanes

Coffey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**

Correction: In my post a few days ago about the killing of the two Wyandotte County Sheriff’s deputies, I quoted my source as saying that killer, prisoner Antoine Fielder, was paralyzed in the exchange of gunfire with Deputy Theresa King. My source emailed me Thursday night to say Fielder was not permanently paralyzed. He was transferred a day or two ago from a hospital to the Johnson County jail.

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The relatively obscure case in southwest Missouri where David Jungerman’s two-year run of criminal activity got underway has now landed on the dog pile of dead-and-gone criminal cases.

It’s no great loss, because this loathsome individual faces much more serious charges here in Jackson County. It is important, nonetheless, because it played a pivotal role in Jungerman getting charged with the murder of Kansas City lawyer Thomas Pickert.

A couple of weeks ago, Vernon County Prosecutor Brandi McInroy dismissed an attempted burglary charge that had been pending against Jungerman since June 2016.

Jungerman’s attorney in that case, S. Dean Price Jr. of Springfield, confirmed the dismissal in a phone call today, saying, “The state made a good, economic, well-reasoned decision.”

His use of the word “economic” goes to the fact that the expense of pursuing the case further would not be worthwhile, considering that the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office has two stronger cases against Jungerman — one for Pickert’s murder last October, the other for threatening two people with a handgun in March.

**

The southwest Missouri case consumed a lot of people’s time — that of judges, clerks, sheriff’s deputies, witnesses, attorneys and others — in both Barton County (Lamar, MO) and Vernon County (Nevada). And, like a goodly number of criminal cases, it never got to the plea or trial stage.

The case turned on typical Jungerman behavior: He was pissed off at a guy who was renting a house from him near Nevada, so he went to the home on June 28, 2016, and kicked at the door. When the tenant answered, Jungerman demanded to know when the guy would vacate the premises…Wouldn’t have been much of a problem, except Jungerman was swearing and had his hand on a .40-caliber Glock in his waistband.

If the tenant, a man named Jerry Doyle, had been the only person at home that day, charges might never have been filed — or the case might have been dismissed a long time ago because it would have been Doyle’s word against Junegerman’s.

But two other people were present, and they confirmed Doyle’s account to sheriff’s deputies. According to a sheriff’s office report, witness Angela Schlup began crying during the incident because “she thought that he (Jungerman) was going to use the gun on Jerry Doyle.”

**

The attempted burglary case was pending when Pickert was shot last October in the front yard of his Brookside home after walking his two young sons to school. Jungerman immediately came under police focus because Pickert had recently represented a man who had won a $5.75 million civil judgment against Jungerman.

In 2012, Jungerman had shot the plaintiff and another man when they were on the grounds of — but outside — a business Jungerman owns in northeast Kansas City. (Jungerman told me after a court hearing in March he firmly believed in “the castle doctrine,” which he described as follows: “You come in my house, I’m going to blow your ass away.”)

Jungerman at a May 3 court hearing in Jackson County

During the five months police were investigating the Pickert case, Jungerman was free on $10,000 bond in the attempted burglary case, and it was the only legal threat hanging over his head.

I covered developments in the case closely, mainly because I knew it might be Missouri prosecutors only chance to get Jungerman behind bars, in the event they were never able to develop sufficient evidence in the murder case.

Before and after a court hearing in Nevada in January, I spoke with Jungerman at length. In the course of our conversation, I said, “Did you do it? Did you kill him (Pickert?)”

After a slight hesitation, he smiled and said: “My attorney has told me not to answer any questions, so I’m not going to say I did, and I’m not going to say I didn’t.”

Those were the words — and attitude — of a guy who believed he’d gotten away with murder.

As it turned out, words he had uttered two months earlier, after another court hearing in southwest Missouri, had opened the way for Jean Peters Baker to charge him with Pickert’s murder.

Jungerman, fool that he is, had recorded the Nov. 16 court hearing, but he failed to turn off the recorder afterwards.

So, the recorder picked up this bit of conversation between Jungerman and an employee of his, as the two men were in Jungerman’s vehicle.

Jungerman: Hey, you know, uh, people…people uh know that I murdered that son of a bitch.

Employee: Why are you saying it like that?

Jungerman: Because that’s what…because of what the media done, see. And but they…they…they just nobody can figure out what’s going on, you know?

Kansas City police came across the recorder — with its shocking contents — while executing a search warrant following Jungerman’s arrest in March for threatening two people he thought had stolen iron piping from him.

**

And so, the curtain has fallen on the obscure burglary case in southwest Missouri.

A bigger act will be playing out in Jackson County, however, where a man who loved his family and the law got killed for successfully representing a client who had run afoul of an evil, arrogant man whose sense of right and wrong revolves around his distorted interpretation of “the castle doctrine.”

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I’ve got a pretty good bead on exactly what happened outside the Wyandotte County Court Services building the other day.

A person who is very familiar with Wyandotte County law enforcement laid it out for me.

I can’t vouch for it 100 percent, and it’s a sole-source account, but when you hear it, you’ll see that it smacks of logic and insider knowledge.

First, here’s a screen shot of the overall scene where the action occurred.

We are looking west on Ann Avenue from Seventh Street. At the right is the Wyandotte County Court Services building, formerly the federal courthouse in Kansas City, Kansas.

At left is the north side of the main Wyandotte County Courthouse. Farther down the block, with the narrow, horizontal windows, is the Wyandotte County jail. (Note: Earlier I said the first building on the left was Memorial Hall; that was incorrect.)

The shootings took place in a gated area behind the court services building. Inmate Antoine Fielder had appeared in court and deputies Theresa King and Patrick Rohrer were walking Fielder and another prisoner back to a van, from where they would go back across the street to the jail.

The gated area behind the courts service building, called the courthouse annex, has a raised loading dock. The routine is that the transport vans park below the dock, and the deputies and inmates then walk up several steps to the dock. The lead deputy unlocks the door to the courthouse, and the group goes in single file.

When leaving the building, the procedure is reversed.

Like all prisoners being transported, Fielder and  the other inmate were wearing leg shackles and were handcuffed in front, with the handcuffs attached to a belly chain that goes around the inmates’ midsection. Thus, they cannot run, and they have limited extension of their hands.

Now, my source’s account:

“The front deputy (could have been either King or Rohrer) unlocks the exit door (to the courthouse), opens and holds it while the inmates and other deputy walk out onto the dock…The inmates walk down the steps and are basically between the two deputies. At some point, while the first deputy (my source believes this was Rohrer) is opening the side doors of the van, Fielder makes his move. He is a big man and has maneuvered his belly-chain and cuffs so that he can have more movement. In that moment, while the deputy (again, believed to be Rohrer) is focused on opening the van doors, Fielder makes his move and goes straight for the deputy’s weapon, unsnaps the holster while simultaneously knocking the deputy off balance. Once he has the firearm, Fielder delivers a fatal shot to the deputy’s head.

“In the meantime, the second deputy (King) is walking down the steps, or just getting on ground level. She draws her firearm and the other inmate is running back to the dock to get out of the way. She has to maneuver around the fleeing inmate and begins firing at Fielder as he turns and starts firing at her. She empties her clip, hitting Fielder five times. Fielder also empties his gun, but his last shot hit her in the head. Both fall. The deputy’s wound is fatal, and Fielder lives.

“The whole thing is over within 10 seconds or so.”

A secondary source told me King’s weapon “stove piped” after she shot Fielder — meaning a bullet casing was stuck in the slide after not fully ejecting — and that’s when Fielder shot her.

**

That is a terrifying account. And it’s the kind of spontaneous, horrifying experience that rarely happens but which transport deputies have to be anticipating all the time.

As my source said, “An inmate has 24 hours a day to plan ways to escape, and we try to prepare for every scenario but, as we saw here, sometimes that doesn’t work.”

One of the ironies here is that even after shooting the deputies, Fielder faced more hurdles before he would have gained even temporary freedom…The shootings occurred in a fenced-in area, so he would have had to find and manipulate the key to open the gate to the holding area. He also would have needed the key to his shackles, and, finally, he would have needed a key or remote to start the van.

All in all, according to my main source, Fielder’s gambit amounted to “a totally ignorant, stupid move on his part.”

**

A couple of things about the account came as a surprise:

  1. That Fielder ended up paralyzed. Officials have not divulged that information — or any detailed account of what happened.
  2. It was Rohrer, not King, whom Fielder overcame. My initial thought was that Fielder would most likely target the female deputy. But the way my source describes it, the seconds of greatest vulnerability are when the lead deputy is opening the van doors, with his (or her) back to the inmates. In those moments, the gender of the lead officer is immaterial, for the most part. It’s just a matter of whether the inmate can move quickly and surely enough to get the officer’s handgun out of the holster.

Fielder, as we know by now, is an extremely violent individual — having probably killed at least two people previously — and he has no regard for human life.

**

Now, how to fix this situation.

My first thought was, “Why have the inmates’ hands handcuffed in front of them? Why not behind, where no one could do what Fielder did with his hands out front?”

My source addressed that question this way:

“The courts have been loathe to allow us to put incarcerated inmates in handcuffs behind their back. The reason is that inmates have to have their hands in front to sign documents and hold their defense materials, not to mention having to sit with their attorneys for long periods of time in a chair in the courtroom.

“Handcuffs leave marks and are extremely painful when you must lean back in a chair. During jury trials, we even have to let them dress in their own clothes and we have to remove any shackles, chains and cuffs when the jury might see them and become prejudiced seeing a ‘chained monster,’ as the attorneys describe it.

“We do handcuff arrestees behind their backs when first arrested on the street and taken to the jail, where they are strip searched for hidden weapons. Once in the jail, the rules are changed for court appearances.”

**

According to my source, after the Wyandotte County Unified Government acquired the former federal courthouse, the sheriff asked for funds to build an elevated, secure walkway over Ann Avenue between the jail and the annex. (A similar walkway links the jail and the main courthouse building, both of which are on the south side of Ann Avenue.)

My source said the Unified Government, rejected the request as too costly, and, as a result, inmates initially were walked across the street to the annex.

“It didn’t take long before an incident or two occurred on this walk,” my source said, “so then it was decided that it was safer to load the inmates into a vehicle and drive across the street.”

**

One of the benefits of a walkway, my source said, is that secured walkways are considered part of the jail and guns are not allowed, “so there is no danger of being disarmed.”

In addition, my source said, “The walkways are monitored by the jail control center and, in the event of a fight breaking out or other trouble…the control center announces it over the radio and a dozen deputies come running from the jail to assist.”

As it is, however, deputies are required to carry their firearms when they go outside, in public spaces, with inmates, in case an inmate attempts to break out of the van or makes a move on a deputy, as Fielder did.

**

Looks to me — and my source and probably every person connected with the Wyandotte County Sheriff’s Department — that it’s time to build a secure walkway over Ann Avenue.

I would think construction of such a walkway would cost less than $1 million.

Is another deputy’s life worth $1 million?

**

Correction: The day I posted this, I quoted my source as saying Antoine Fielder was paralyzed from the shots Deputy Theresa King struck him with. My source sent me an email last night, Thursday, saying Fielder was not permanently paralyzed. A couple of days ago he was moved from a hospital to the Johnson County jail.

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