Mourners gathered in a narrow alley on a bitter cold rainy day downtown to remember a little boy whose body was found near a spot that on Saturday was marked by a memorial of teddy bears, toys and candles lit in his memory.
It was a diverse group of about three dozen people that assembled in an alley of an apartment building at 1006 Grand Blvd., where a 5-year-old boy plunged 17 stories on Nov. 27, according to police officials. The Kansas City fire department also paid its respects by parking fire trucks near the memorial. In memory of the child identified by authorities as Grayson O’Connor, mostly adult mourners held green and white balloons at a 2 p.m. memorial, where tributes were filled with tears, sniffles, and heavy hearts.
Before opening remarks to remember the life of an innocent child, gatherers sang in unison, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”
The Star reported that Kansas City police responded to a medical call on Monday and found Grayson suffering from “apparent head trauma in an alley.” The child was pronounced dead at the scene.
His death has brought a community to mourning and caused people to question whether they could have done more to save the child.
‘The entire building shaken’
As mourners stood inches away from the spot where the child’s body was found, residents who knew Grayson stepped away at times to comfort each other. For some residents like Shakaela Bruce, 26, a sense of guilt permeates the hearts of those who remember seeing a “cheerful” boy from the 17th floor walk up and down the stairs. “The entire building is shaken,” Bruce said.
Bruce, who described herself as Grayson’s neighbor, remembered often seeing him walk in their apartment building with his mother. Bruce recalled leaning down to touch his arm and say, “Hey Grayson.” Some residents have said they noticed signs of child neglect and abuse.
During the memorial, a man in the crowd said he felt compelled to drive from Blue Springs to attend Grayson’s memorial, which has “impacted his family.” He expressed anger while attempting to fathom the death of a child who should have been protected and who neighbors previously told the Star had allegedly experienced neglect and abuse.
Police have not filed charges in the case, which remains under investigation, including how the child fell from his apartment window.
Police have also said that the child’s mother is considered “the subject of interest” by police, although exact circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear. Contacted on Saturday evening, Captain Corey Carlisle, a spokesperson for the Kansas City police, said there are no updates in the case.
Bruce, who has been a resident for two years, was shocked to hear of allegations of abuse while watching the news on television.
“When I saw him, I didn’t know any of this was going on until they said it on the news,” Bruce said. “…If everybody knew, why (didn’t) nothing happen?” she said.
Five days after Grayson’s death, Bruce said she now avoids walking with her daughter past the alley where Grayson’s small body fell from the high-rise to the cold hard ground.
“I haven’t told her,” Bruce said. “I can’t even take my trash out because I don’t want her to ask what’s going on if she sees the memorial.”
On the sidewalk Saturday, Kelsey Grzib, 35, cried as her neighbors hugged and comforted her. She recalled finding Grayson once alone outside sometime in March and decided to take him in because his mother allegedly could not be found.
Grzib said she and other residents suspected abuse and made calls to the authorities to rescue him.
“I’ve called CPS four times and other residents hotlined her (called authorities)” Grzib said, tears filling her eyes. “We all knew this was going to happen, that’s why he have this guilt.”
As the memorial came to a close, mourners placed stuffed animals, lit candles and tied balloons to a silver gate, where Grayson took his last breath alone in the alley five days earlier. A soft rain fell amid their tears.