Hundreds of community members gathered Thursday night for a candlelight vigil to show support to the family of a gun shop owner killed during a botched armed robbery last week.
The Shawnee Business Association and Shawnee Partnership helped organize the event held in front of She's A Pistol, 5725 Nieman Rd., in Shawnee.
After the vigil, participants were invited to walk over to City Hall to sign a banner for Jon Bieker's family.
She's a Pistol was more than a gun shop to the Bieker's. They spent almost all of their time there, they considered it a home away from home and Bieker died protecting it and his wife.
Bieker, the co-owner of the gun store, was killed during the robbery attempt. His wife, Becky Bieker, was hospitalized briefly after she was punched in the face.
“We want to show people what true love and truly coming together and true community can be," said Kevin Bennett of the law firm Bennett, Bodine, and Waters.
Customers, strangers, and friends came to honor Jon Bieker. To them, he is a hero.
“He protected what he believed in. He protected Becky. Becky, even though she got knocked down, she didn't stay down. She got up and finished what she had to until police got there. She kept fighting to protect also Jon,” said Mike Saylor, an instructor at She's a Pistol.
Andrea Smith, Bieker's sister, said the family understandably is devastated, but appreciates the support.
"I will say our family has been overwhelmingly grateful for the outpouring of support by the community and people from across the country. Becky truly does need the support, as she and Jon had put their heart, soul, and savings into making their dream a reality," Smith wrote in a text to KCTV5's Jeanene Kiesling. "I think we are understandably still in shock over the whole situation. The words of support and generosity of everyone has been so helpful and we are so thankful. We are touched by how many lives Jon affected."
Becky Bieker was not in the large crowd, but everyone's thoughts and prayers were with her. They want her to know they care and they share her loss.
“I hope it will help ease her pain,” said attendee Elaine Copp.
Saylor had a message from the grieving widow to her community.
“Part of what Becky wants to share is we are opening. We are not going to let them win. We are going to open because there are people out there like yourselves that want the protection,” he said.
Tamara Hudson, of Encore, is one of those who spearheaded the vigil.
"We've all lost a family. We are here for her, her business and to remember Jon. That's what this is all about," Hudson said. "I can't imagine. We have a family business. How do you pick up and walk in the door? What do you do?"
Shawnee Mayor Jeff Meyers said the tragedy touched a nerve in the community.
"At this time, you just want to share thoughts and prayers and again, pour that support out as a community for people that are in need of this kind of support," Meyers said, speaking out for the first time since the incident.
The mayor said Shawnee is a close-knit, family-oriented community that is dedicated to letting Becky Bieker know she can count on them.
For the first time, KCTV5 learned more about what happened inside the store last Friday afternoon. An employee said the robbers likely thought Becky Bieker was an easy target.
Her husband was working in the back of the store at the time of the attempted robbery, but Jon Bieker always had an eye on his wife. On his video surveillance monitor, he recognized trouble and rushed to protect her when he was shot.
Prosecutors charged four men for Jon Bieker's murder, the three gunman and another man, Hakeem Malik, who investigators believe was the getaway driver.
Malik appeared before a Johnson County judge earlier this week and requested a court-appointed attorney.
Nicquan Midgyet, another suspect, is now in the Johnson County Jail after being released from the hospital. Midgyet and two other accused gunmen were shot during the robbery attempt.
A public visitation will be held from 2-5 p.m. Saturday at the Amos Family Funeral Home, 10901 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, KS. The banner for the Bieker family will stay up inside City Hall and is available for anyone to sign.
Two GoFundMe.com accounts have been set up to benefit Bieker.
The Kansas State Rifle Association has also established a fund to help Becky Bieker with funeral and other expenses, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to Becky Bieker. Click here to donate to any of the three funds.
Various Shawnee businesses are accepting cash and checks, which will be consolidated and turned over to Becky Bieker in the form of one check. Powerplay, a family entertainment business, is selling a Powerplay card with 50 percent of the proceeds going to Becky Bieker.
"What hit me the hardest is a couple trying to live the American dream. They have a business and it gets shattered in a couple of seconds," said Chas Tulipana, owner of Powerplay on Shawnee Mission Parkway.
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