After surge of federal agents ends, officials in Kansas City tout results of Operation LeGend

©The Kansas City Star

Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star/TNS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Days after it was announced that more than 200 federal agents and investigators involved in Operation LeGend have left Kansas City, local and federal officials gathered to talk about the results of the crime-fighting initiative.

At a news conference Monday, U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison said 518 arrests were made as part of the operation and federal charges were filed in 126 cases. Most of those cases involved firearms offenses, Garrison said, and the rest included drug trafficking and other violent crimes.

Garrison was joined by Mayor Quinton Lucas and Police Chief Rick Smith at a fire station on Indiana Avenue, where last week a child was brought after being fatally shot. One-year-old Tyron Payton was the city’s 148th homicide victim of the year.

“I think it’s safe to say that we are going to set a new record for homicides this year,” Garrison said. “That die was cast before Operation LeGend was conceived. In fact, it is why Operation LeGend was conceived.”

Operation LeGend was named after another child killed by gun violence in Kansas City: 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and while sleeping in his bedroom this summer. The operation was started in Kansas City by order of the U.S. Department of Justice and was expanded to eight other cities, including St. Louis, Memphis and Detroit.

The 10-week effort began on July 8 and concluded on Sept. 16. During those weeks, law enforcement officials credited the operation with the arrest of 37 homicide suspects. Authorities also seized 176 firearms.

Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri said federal agents who were part of the surge have returned to their home districts.

On Monday, Garrison said an FBI special agent would be assigned to the Kansas City Police Department Homicide Unit.

Kansas City remains on pace for its deadliest year on record. As of Monday, 149 people have been killed in the city, according to data kept by The Star. When counting four fatal police shootings, the bloodiest year yet was 2017, with 155 killings.

“This is not a victory lap,” Garrison said. “We’re not spiking the football, we’re not declaring victory and going home. There is too much work to do.”

Garrison said Operation LeGend partners worked to assuage community concerns that the effort would infringe on civil rights, and to send the message that it “was not going to be an indefinite occupation by federal agents, with troops and tanks in the streets.

“To the contrary, unless you were engaged in criminal misconduct, or in the vicinity of someone who was, you’d likely never saw any of the agents that were sent to Kansas City. It was designed to be a high impact, limited duration surge of resources to help us get our arms around our violent crime problem,” he said.

Lucas thanked law enforcement officials involved in the effort.

“All of us see it as our primary responsibility to make sure that Kansas Citians, particularly Kansas City’s children, are safe,” he said.

“So I hope every Kansas Citian is as outraged as we are by our violent crime number and is dedicated to seeing change and improvement,” Lucas said.

“Regardless of the effort, we’re going to keep taking bold affirmative steps to make Kansas City safer each and every day,” he said.

Smith said more needs to be done to further reduce crime.

“We still have a ways to go here, the work is not finished, we’re going to continue to press ahead,” he said. “What we saw here is what added resources can do when you bring 200 extra bodies, brains, thinkers, resources, what happens it’s not that we couldn’t handle the work, but look at how much faster the work happened, because we had the resources.”

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©2020 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)