Families of murder victims find comfort in National Day of Remembrance

September 25, 2013, by Eric Burke
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Today is a summer day for thousands of people across the metro. It was also a National Day of Remembrance for murder victims. But many families will also tell you it’s a special day — one to honor those that lost.

Six and a half years ago Chris Bartholomew was shot and killed near the intersection of 39th and Broadway. He had come to pick up friends from Westport. His death devastated his mother, but she’s been able to get through the past few years because of other families who have experienced a similar loss.

“My life stopped that day,” Misty Kirwan, mother, said. “Life as I knew it stopped that day. The National Day of Remembrance helps other people realize we’re still here.”

Kirwan tries to stay strong, but nearly seven years after her son was killed she still has bad days.

“There are some days when I don’t want to get out of bed, and I can call one of my friends that have been through this,” she said. “I just talk or cry and they really understand.”

One of the people she calls is Maria Martinez. Her brother Sam Mandacina was shot and killed in 2011. Sam managed a Northland convenience store. He offered to work a Sunday night shift for one of his employees. About 7 o’clock that night a 16-year-old walked in and shot Sam several times killing him and changing his family’s life forever.

“You instantly become so close to them because this tragic incident builds a special bond, and without them I don’t know where I’d be,” Martinez said.

Both women and their families are surviving one day at a time thanks to each other. Both think about their loved ones daily especially on this National Day of Remembrance for murder victims.

Gun violence report shows KC’s dangerous neighborhoods

About 40 percent of shootings result in deaths, Health Department says
Jan 23, 2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —A new report detailing random gun violence in Kansas City will be presented to city leaders Thursday and show that over the past eight years, nearly 40 percent of the city’s shootings ended with someone’s death.

The report cites 911 gun killings in Kansas City between 2002 and 2010. In the same period, there were more than 2,300 emergency department reports of gun violence.

Misty Kirwan said her son was one of the people killed in Kansas City gun violence. Chris Bartholomew died in a drive-by shooting at 39th Street and Broadway Boulevard in 2007, a case that remains unsolved.

“It’s not something you ever get used to. You learn to live with it. A new normal,” Kirwan said. “I know the gang violence in the city is huge. There are a lot of illegal guns out there. It’s bad that many people have to die.”

She is joining a victim’s advocacy group to help other families who experience similar ordeals.

She said she blames gangs and guns, not guns in general, for her son’s death. She said she’s not sure tighter gun laws will address the problem.

“Most of the murders are happening with illegal guns,” she said. “So is a gun ban going to fix that? No.”

The numbers in this report to be presented to the Kansas City Health Commission don’t square with the statistics from the Kansas City Police Department, which includes 37 more deaths over the same period. Police said they’re not sure what set of statistics health officials used to compile the information.

Using the Police Department numbers, the fatality rate jumps from about 39 percent to above the 40 percent mark.

KMBC link to this story

Chris Bartholomew