Four weeks in, DEA leader defends Operation: Legend during visit to Kansas City

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President Donald Trump speaks during an event on “Operation Legend: Combatting Violent Crime in American Cities,” in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDAF) — It has been four weeks since Operation LeGend began with 250 federal agents coming to Kansas City to fight the violent crime plaguing it.

DEA Acting Administrator Timothy Shea visited Kansas City on Wednesday to review and inspect what his agents have been doing since the initiative’s start on July 8.

“The motivating factor for us to make sure that there are not more LeGends in the future, and we have to do whatever we can to stop that,” Shea said.

Operation LeGend is named after 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro who was killed when a bullet pierced his home during a drive-by shooting near East 63rd and The Paseo on June 29.

Shea said there have been over 100 arrests so far in a city with 522 shootings and 115 homicides so far in 2020.

But these federal agencies are dealing with more than alleged criminals.

Protesters and politicians, including Mayor Quinton Lucas and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, have in the past objected to the federal crime-fighting initiative.

“What they are confusing it with is a protective operation in one city that has nothing to do with this,” Shea said, referring to the federal government’s response to attacks on the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon.

“DEA and other federal agencies were in Kansas City long before Operation LeGend doing the same types of things. What we’ve done is intensified that.”

Shea said Operation LeGend is aimed at arresting the worst of the worst criminals and those who are perpetuating violent crime in Kansas City, much of which is fueled by drugs.

People like convicted felon 38-year-old Steven Younce, arrested through Operation LeGend with a large amount of meth and two loaded guns. He has been charged with several serious felonies in federal court.

“So we are going to support the Kansas City Police Department and our federal partners to provide the expertise we have at DEA to go after those violent criminals that traffic drugs into this area,” Shea said. “Meth is a huge problem in Kansas City. It kills a lot of people here as well, not just the guns.”

Niecey Williams lives in the same apartment complex where LeGend was killed. She worries every day about her 2-year-old daughter Jainaice’s life being cut short by senseless violence and is comforted by Operation LeGend.

“I think it’s a blessing to have that,” Williams said. ”Just knowing other people are here to watch out for our safety it makes me happy. It makes me a lot more comfortable to have my daughter out here.”

That’s exactly why Operation LeGend exists, Shea said.

“It’s a basic right that people have is to be free from the fear of crime and the basic obligation of government to make people safe and provide for the public safety,” he said. “That’s what we’re doing here in Kansas City.”

Operation LeGend agents will be in Kansas City until the end of September. The program has expanded to Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee.

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