Operation LeGend: Trump hails anti-crime initiative after Missouri 4-year-old’s killer is arrested and charged

22-year-old Ellis was arrested on Thursday in Tulsa and charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of armed criminal action in the death of Taliferro LeGend


                            Operation LeGend: Trump hails anti-crime initiative after Missouri 4-year-old’s killer is arrested and charged
Donald Trump (L), Ryson Ellis (Getty Images/Tulsa County Sheriff's Office)

President Donald J. Trump celebrated the news of the arrest of Ryson Ellis, the suspect in the killing of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro of Kansas City, Missouri. “As you know, we named Operation LeGend after LeGend Taliferro, where we’re in the process of helping out cities throughout our country that have difficulty with certain types of crime,” Trump said at a Thursday press conference. “That’s really good news.”

22-year-old Ellis was arrested on Thursday in Tulsa and charged with second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of armed criminal action in the death of Taliferro, who was fatally struck by a stray bullet while sleeping on the floor of his father's apartment. The June 29 tragedy inspired the formation of a federal anti-crime task force that has since been deployed in several cities to fight violent crime.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks to the East Room to speak an event about 'Operation Legend: Combating Violent Crime in American Cities' in the East Room of the White House July 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

Ellis allegedly "shot blindly" into the back of a Citadel Apartments unit, where Raphael Taliferro was living with his son and had recently taken in his sister, who reportedly has a child with the suspect. The sister alleged Ellis had hit her in the head just a couple of days before the shooting and that some of her brothers had an altercation with him, KSHB-TV reported.   

The last straw was when Ellis's mother also threatened her with a gun and so she left the home with their child to stay with her brother and his four-year-old son. On the night of the killing, Ellis was driven to Taliferro's home by a female friend after going to a club. That woman, who wasn't identified, later revealed she drove away from the scene as soon as she heard gunshots. Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters-Baker said Ellis's actions as "cowardly" and recalled how investigators ran into several dead-ends until a member from the community came forward with vital information. Ellis was finally apprehended on Thursday in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was held without bond.

Operation LeGend, named in the boy's memory, is overseen by the U.S. Department of Justice. As part of the program, federal agents have been deployed to cities with high crime rates to assist local law enforcement as well as to investigate unsolved violent crimes. Trump met with LeGend's family while announcing the program, which started in Kansas but has since been expanded to Chicago, St. Louis, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Powell, LeGend's mother, said on Thursday that she was "grateful that we are in the steps to justice." Meanwhile, she also empathized with the family of her son's alleged killer and the violence in Kansas City.

"This is a loose situation, for my family, and including his," she said of Ellis. "We have to take it a step farther and calm the violence down."

U.S. Attorney General William Barr speaks with Charron Powell following an event about 'Operation Legend' in the East Room of the White House on July 22, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison said the case was "precisely the type of case that this operation was designed to solve and we are very pleased that his case is one step closer to bringing justice to little LeGend and his family."

Operation LeGend, he revealed, has resulted in more than 200 arrests since its inception, including 16 homicide suspects.

"Today’s arrest of LeGend Taliferro’s suspected murderer marks a significant step forward in his case and illustrates the potential of Operation LeGend more broadly," U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement. "The arrest and state charges resulted from cooperation among Kansas City police officers, the FBI, and U.S. Marshals. This development is a model for joint efforts to solve crimes and reduce violence in other cities. I thank the state and local law enforcement officers who helped make possible this important step in bringing justice to LeGend, to his family, and to his community."

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