Archive for April, 2021

The pace of news is fast and furious these days…

Let’s take a look at one negative and one positive. We’ll start with the negative because, of course, that’s what sells blogs and newspapers.

KC Police Chief Rick Smith

I knew this guy was a terrible chief — pays little attention to the East Side and goes out of his way to protect rogue officers on the force — but I didn’t know until today he was an idiot.

Unbelievably, Smith had accepted an invitation to be a guest of honor at a partisan political event — the Jackson County Republican Committee’s April 17 Reagan-Lincoln Day dinner.

Even more unbelievably, he was going to share the stage with disgraced former Gov. Eric Greitens and the looney McCloskeys of St. Louis. You remember them — the paranoid couple who, on June 28, waved guns at a group of protesters who entered a private street while on their way to the St. Louis mayor’s home. Here they are, Patricia and Mark, the Bonnie and Clyde of Missouri.

Smith had every intention of joining these goofballs — Greitens and the McCloskeys — until Mayor Quinton Lucas called him out Friday morning.

“Never in Kansas City have I seen our apolitical appointees—be it a police chief, city manager, or fire chief—engage as featured guests/speakers in partisan political events or causes. The reasons not to do so are numerous and apparent. I would hope this does not change,” Lucas said on Twitter.

A short time later, Smith pulled out, saying, “It is becoming apparent that my attendance at the event would be a distraction.”

It should have been apparent to him the moment he got the invitation.

But now we know how really bad this chief is, and maybe this will prompt Lucas, a member of the Board of Police Commissioners, to accept a longstanding challenge from Gwen Grant, president of the Urban League of Kansas City. She has urged Lucas to simply make a motion at a meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners to fire Smith.

She knows — and Lucas knows — it won’t pass because at least three of the five commissioners — all Republicans, of course — are firmly behind Lucas.

But Grant, in an effort to get Lucas to show some guts, has told him privately: “Just make the motion and see what happens.”

Do it, Lucas, do it.

Homeless camps

Gotta give Lucas credit on this one.

For weeks, scores of homeless people have set up camps on the south lawn of City Hall and green space at the intersection of Southwest Trafficway and Westport Road.

These camps are an eyesore, and there was talk at City Hall of clearing them out. It’s a very knotty problem, however, because these are the lowest people on the economic scale and rousting them out would look terrible.

But today, the City Council came up with what appears to be a strategic and smart move: It unanimously passed a measure to provide temporary housing for up to 500 people in hotel rooms.

Right away, apparently, homeless people can start arranging temporary housing in hotels for 90 days.

Lucas, who was involved in several days of discussion with leaders of the homeless coalition, said the 90-day period will allow time to work on two other goals: a land bank for permanent housing and employment opportunities.

James Shelby, leader of the homeless coalition, called the hotel proposal a good first step. “The rest,” he said, “is contingent on the City Council continuing to work with us and to create systemic policies and different stuff that affect our lives for the better. That’s all we’re looking for. We’re tired of being on the bottom of the totem pole. It’s time to treat everybody with the same respect and dignity.”

Bravo for Lucas and the City Council. Looks like Kansas City is not going to make national news by tearing down tents and shooing people off public property.

James Shelby and Mayor Quinton Lucas talking on Wednesday

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I said I was going to try to cover as much of the Kylr Yust trial as I could, but, unfortunately, I haven’t had time to cover it at all since it began Monday in Cass County Circuit Court.

There’s plenty of coverage, however, from The Star and some TV stations, and if you’re looking for blanket coverage, I recommend KMBC-TV’s website. The station is providing real-time coverage, from one witness to the next.

So far, testimony has centered around the disappearance of Kara Kopetsky, who had been dating Yust and went missing the morning of May 4, 2007, after leaving Belton High School, where she was a student.

Yust, 32, is also charged with murdering Jessica Runions, another woman he dated, in 2016. The remains of both women were found in a wooded area south of Belton in April 2017. Prosecutors have said the location was not far from a house where Yust used to spend time.

From what I’ve read, it sounds like the state’s evidence is coming in very well. So far, the defense has been nipping around the edges of incriminating testimony, trying to case doubt about the some witnesses’ credibility.

Kylr Yust, with defense attorney Molly Hastings, at his murder trial

Here’s some of the most incriminating testimony so far, accompanied by my observations…

:: Yust apparently told at least four people he had killed Kopetsky, including one woman who was wearing a wire to record what he told her. The woman has not testified yet, but a defense attorney said in her opening statement Monday that Yust told the woman he had killed Kopetsky because she was acting titillated by the possibility of being in the company of a murderer, and Yust thought that by telling her he had killed someone she would agree to have sex with him…I doubt if the jury will buy that story. How many people are going to confess to a murder to get laid?

:: Yust was a member of a “death metal band.” He was the lead singer, although indications are there was a lot more yelling than singing…If you’re going to end up charged with murder, I can’t imagine a worse type of band to have been involved with than a band playing music defined by “death.”

:: Yust had a very bad temper. Jennifer Smith, a friend of Kopetsky’s, testified Yust would be “screaming at the top of his lungs” at gatherings of friends…I guess it’s possible he wasn’t out of control. Perhaps he was just exercising his vocal chords to prepare for death-metal performances.

:: At her mother’s urging, Kopetsky applied for and got a restraining order against Yust on April 30, 2007, after coming home with cigarette burns inflicted by Yust. In the application for the order, she (Kara) wrote, “The abuse has gotten worse over time.” Her mother, Rhonda Beckford, also read from a poem her daughter had written, in which Kara said, “After all the pain and suffering, I am through.” She may have been through, but, as is the case in many abusive relationships, she wasn’t able to get away in time to save her life.

:: Amy Clark, another friend of Kara’s and the person who reported her missing the day she disappeared, testified she had seen signs of abuse on Kara, including a “choke mark” and a “fat lip.” Kara and Jessica are believed to have been strangled to death. A choke mark certainly won’t win Yust any points with the jury.

:: A former Belton Police Department supervisor testified he brought Yust in for questioning on May 6, 2007, because he was aware of the restraining order. Steve Edson, the former supervisor, said that in the interview Yust insisted he would never hurt Kara but admitted to having grabbed her and shaken her. Oddly, Edson said, Yust spoke about Kara in the past tense…Who else besides the killer would have known she was permanently gone and not just missing?

:: Amy Clark testified that two weeks before Kara disappeared, Yust told her (Clark), “If I can’t have her, nobody can.” The prosecution is establishing a picture of a jealous hothead who was under a restraining order and who supposedly confessed to a murder in the hopes of getting laid…Even with no physical evidence linking him to the crime, it appears that Yust will be doing most of his future singing in a Fulsom-State-Prison-type setting.

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