On Aug. 13, a 22-year-old Kansas City man was charged in the fatal shooting of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro. The morning of June 29, Ryson Ellis allegedly fired from outside into the Citadel Apartments, killing Taliferro as he slept. Ellis was charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon and two counts of armed criminal action.
According to court records, a woman was in the apartment at the time of the shooting who said Ellis had assaulted and threatened her a few days before the shooting.
A vehicle that police connected with the murder was caught on surveillance video the night of the shooting. A witness, who was driving with Ellis in the vehicle when he got out of the car near the apartment, said she heard gun shots and Ellis came running back to the car. The witness said she did not find out until later that someone was killed.
The charges come after the murder received national attention, including the creation of a federal program named after Taliferro aimed at addressing violent crime.
The program came about after Kansas City saw a 40% increase in homicides this year. Mayor Quinton Lucas called on Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to address the issue with a special session focusing on violent crime. But, the next week, Lucas found out from Twitter that the Department of Justice was sending 200 federal agents to investigate unsolved homicides and non-fatal shootings in an initiative they called Operation Legend.
Operation Legend received much pushback from local activist organizations including Black Rainbow, the Reale Justice Network, Urban League of Greater Kansas City (ULGKC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Kansas City (SCLC-GKC) and One Struggle KC, who believed bringing more police in would be devastating to the Black community in Kansas City.
“This is a policy which further militarizes our community and escalates the already elevated possibility of increased bloodshed in our streets — bloodshed that too often ends in the loss of more Black life,” said Rev. Vernon P. Howard Jr, SCLC-GKC president at a press conference and protest of Operation Legend on the steps of KCPD on July 10.
Despite the program’s wide criticism, it has expanded to Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee with the same mission.
As Taliferro’s family begins to heal, they are thankful for the justice they have received.
“As a community, I appreciate you guys for stepping up,” said Charron Powell, Taliferro’s mother at a press conference, “but now we got to take it a step farther and help calm the violence down and do what you guys did to help my case, let’s do that with other cases and stop things like this from happening.”