Missouri mayor learned that William Barr planned to deploy federal agents to Kansas City on Twitter

"I plan and hope to learn more about this effort over the days ahead," Mayor Quinton Lucas says

Published July 9, 2020 7:35PM (EDT)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr (Alex Wong/Getty Images/Salon)
U.S. Attorney General William Barr (Alex Wong/Getty Images/Salon)

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday announced that the Department of Justice would deploy federal law enforcement officers to Missouri under project "Operation Legend."

The operation was named after LeGend Tallifero, a four year old who was killed by gun violence in Kansas City on June 29. Over the next 10 days, the law enforcement surge will filter into the city, which has already seen 100 homicides this year — up 40% from 2019.

McEnany said the Justice Department launched the mission in response to a letter sent from Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas to Missouri Governor Mike Parson. In part, it read: "We are at a crisis point and additional tools are needed for law enforcement and prosecutors to interrupt conspiracies to commit murder and the violent acts, particularly felons using deadly weapons in the streets of Kansas City."

When McEnany read out loud from the letter at Wednesday's White House press briefing, the announcement took Lucas by surprise.

"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," he said in a statement.

Though left out of the loop, Lucas added that he would not stand in the way — at least for now.

"I plan and hope to learn more about this effort over the days ahead," he said. "The investigative support effort announced this afternoon can be only one tool out of many."

Attorney General William Barr will send an unspecified number of federal law enforcement officers to Kansas City — from agencies including the ATF, DEA, FBI and U.S. Marshals — who will help state and local officials tamp down the wave of violent crime.

"We at the federal government want to make sure this never happens and use our resources to the fullest extent of the law to ensure that individuals and young children like LeGend are able to live their lives and live so peacefully," McEnany said.

Barr has been sued in his personal capacity for directing an array of federal law enforcement agents to use overwhelming physical force to clear peaceful protesters gathered at Lafayette Square for a presidential photo-op in early June. The action, which Barr was reported to have personally ordered, led to the deployment of crowd control measures, including tear gas and concussion grenades. Children were among the injured. 

Taliferro, who was born with a rare congenital heart defect, died after being shot in the face in his home while he slept. He had open heart surgery when he was five months old, and reportedly more than 100 people would show up to support him at the annual Kansas City Heart Walk.

However, Lucas appeared to bristle at the prospect of federal agents interposing with local investigators, using his statement to establish early boundaries.

"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," he said. "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 4-year-old LeGend and many other victims tragically killed this year in Kansas City."

The mayor hopes the federal government will work more closely with his office in the coming days.

"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," he said. "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."

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Gun Violence Justice Department Kansas City Kayleigh Mcenany Missouri Politics Quenton Lucas William Barr