KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 21-year-old Missouri woman is charged with murder. The Jackson County prosecuting attorney says it was in retaliation for her 16-year-old brother’s death.
Tityana Coppage is charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action.
Her teenage brother, Jayson Ugwuh Jr., was murdered Jan. 10. His family said they believe he was shot while he was with two other teens walking home from the BP gas station at 40 Highway and Topping Avenue. His friends were able to get him back to the house where they called police.
FOX4 spoke with KCPD the day after his murder about how gun violence is affecting families in the city.
“Violent crime is a plague to Kansas City right now, and we’ve got to address this,” Capt. Dave Jackson said. “I’ve been here for about 22 years, and this is not the first time tragic violence has happened within a family. We have seen this before. It’s tragic. It’s terrible.”
Court documents say Ugwuh’s sister tried to find out who killed her brother and seek revenge.
Police say on Jan. 13, she shot and killed Keith Lars in a parking lot at Thompson and Gladstone in the Historic Northeast. Court documents detail how Coppage figured out the car involved in her brother’s killing and came armed to meet Lars. Investigators believe Coppage and Lars exchanged gunfire in a parking lot behind a home.
Witnesses saw a man put Lars into a car where he allegedly drove him to the intersection of Admiral and Virginia where he died. He was reportedly shot in the chest and the leg.
Once arrested, investigators were able to go through Coppage’s phone where they saw after the shooting, she texted an alleged family member admitting to the act. They also identified a text message to her deceased brother’s phone letting him know she’d taken action.
Coppage is no stranger to loss.
Her 9-year-old brother Jayden Ugwuh and 8-year-old cousin Montell Ross were both killed at her home when she was 16. They were shot by someone outside of the house, and their murderer has not been brought to justice.
Jayson was also home at the time and held his brother as he lay dying. Family members have said this deeply affected both Jayson and Tityana.
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas spoke out about Jayson’s killing on Jan. 12 on Facebook, saying: “Jayson’s life and all-too-early death shows us that we have to further aide families and close relations to victims of violence — and that we’re not doing enough.”
In light of Coppage’s arrest, he said more needs to be done to help those dealing with gun violence.
“We also need to make sure that before someone is picking up that firearm to get justice as they see it, they know there’s a different outlet, they know that there’s someone to talk to, there’s someone who cares about the pain that they and their family have experienced,” Lucas said. “That’s the sort of work that we need to do more of in Kansas City.”
One of the outlets available to people and families struggling with gun violence is the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime. President Damon Daniel said experiencing trauma like this family has can deeply affect those involved.
“When you suffer from a traumatic event, particularly a violent event, it does something to you,” Daniel said. “It changes you, especially if you were a witness to it. And so, if you’re a witness to a violent crime, you may not immediately notice the changes, but over time, it festers itself. And for everyone it manifests itself differently.”
Both Lucas and Daniel said more needs to be done for families in crisis. They look to a holistic approach of providing resources and therapy. However, Lucas said more needs to be done by both the city and police.
“We have to come to a place of understanding that there are thousands of Missourians and Kansans and folks in our Kansas City metropolitan area who are suffering from this,” Daniel said. “This family is not alone. There are so many others that are out here that are crying out every day and whose moms or dads and brothers or sisters are aching with pain because they’ve just not received justice. They don’t have that sense of closure.”
“Kansas City isn’t unique in having that challenge, but I would hope that we can become unique in finding that solution,” Lucas said. “We need to actually look at these families that are impacted. We need to invest even more, and victim advocates, we need to invest more and making sure that we’re not seeing that year after year retaliation.”
If you are one of the thousands in the metro affected by gun violence and need help, Ad Hoc has a 24-hour community hotline. You can reach them at 816-753-1111.