WASHINGTON, (KCTV) – The White House announced Wednesday a plan to send federal agents in to Kansas City in an attempt to address growing levels of violence in the city.
“Operation: Legend” is being touted by the Department of Justice as a response to the surge in violent crime in Kansas City. The focus of the new initiative is to increase the federal law enforcement present in the city.
Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the new plan was inspired by Mayor Quinton Lucas’ letter to Missouri Governor Mike Parson where Lucas wrote that Kansas City was "at a crisis point.”
NEW: Mayor Lucas calls on Governor Parson to convene a special session of the Missouri General Assembly to address violent crime."We are at a crisis point in Kansas City and we need state legislative action." Full letter: pic.twitter.com/PAaHLqas1B— Mayor Quinton Lucas (@MayorLucasKC) July 3, 2020
The letter, originally sent July 3, was looking for Parson to convene a special session of the Missouri legislature focused on growing crime in Missouri cities.
McEnany cited the latest crime statistics from Kansas City, noting that the 100 homicides so far in 2020 is a 40 percent increase from this point in 2019. She said agents from the DoJ, FBI, U.S. Marshals, DEA and ATF will be on the ground in the metro within the next 10 days.
The initiative is named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who died after being shot while he was in his bed asleep on the morning of Monday, June 29.
“We at the federal government want to make sure that that never happens,” McEnany said, “and use our resources to the fullest extent of the law to ensure that individuals and young children like LeGend and able to live their lives, and live so peacefully.”
A release from the Justice Department Wednesday evening described the new program as "a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime" that would start in Kansas City.
The DoJ said the plan is part of a promise by the president to "assist America’s cities that are plagued by recent violence."
“President Trump has made clear: the federal government stands ready and willing to assist any of our state and local law enforcement partners across the nation responding to violent crime. Operation Legend will combine federal and local resources to combat the disturbing uptick in violence by surging federal agents and other federal assets into cities like Kansas City, a city currently experiencing its worst homicide rate in its history."
“The Department’s Operation Legend is named in honor of one of Kansas City’s youngest victims, four-year old LeGend Taliferro who was shot in the face while sleeping in his bed. LeGend’s death is a horrifying reminder that violent crime left unchecked is a threat to us all and cannot be allowed to continue.”
At the time of Taliferro's killing, police reported that they did not believe the shooting was random in nature.
Taliferro had already overcome health issues, including having heart surgery.
The child is being laid to rest in a ceremony schedule for Friday morning.
Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, Lucas issued a statement on the new effort, saying in part that these outside resources "will not be used for regular policing or patrol activities" but rather for investigating "unsolved murders and shootings."
“I learned on Twitter this afternoon that the Department of Justice plans to send federal investigators to Kansas City as support for unsolved homicide and non-fatal shooting investigations. As I understand the Department’s plan, any outside help will not be used for regular policing or patrol activities—and solely to clear unsolved murders and shootings.
“I also understand the United States Attorney in Kansas City has been in contact with the family of LeGend Taliferro who support the investigation effort to help find the murderer of four-year-old LeGend and many other victims tragically killed this year in Kansas City.
“I plan and hope to learn more about this effort over the days ahead. The investigative support effort announced this afternoon can be only one tool out of many, such as mental health treatment and restorative justice, in addressing violent crime.
“As I said in my letter sent last week to Governor Parson that was cited by the White House this afternoon, ‘[W]e will continue to pursue a broad set of social services and other tools to address violent crime now and in the future.’ As mayor, I remain committed to working on all solutions to making our city safer and finding peace for all those impacted by violent crime.”
Congressman Emmanuel Cleaver also sent KCTV5 News statement.
The sending of Federal law enforcement was not made with the knowledge of or partnership with local officials. Making this extemporized and explosive call is not a sign of being strong, however, it does raise a question about the right use of strength.
This is a developing story. Please stay with KCTV5 News and KCTV5.com for updates.