Law & the Courts

Barr Praises Operation Legend after Suspect Apprehended and Charged for Murder of Four-Year-Old

Attorney General William Barr speaks during a roundtable at the White House in Washington, D.C., June 15, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)

Attorney General William Barr praised “Operation Legend” after a murder charge was announced for the alleged killer of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, whose death sparked the Department of Justice operation.

“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. The arrest and state charges resulted from cooperation among Kansas City police officers, the FBI, and U.S. Marshals,” Barr said in a statement. “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.“

Ryson Ellis, 22, was charged Thursday with felony counts of second-degree murder, unlawful use of a weapon, and two counts of armed criminal action Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced at a news conference in Kansas City.

Ellis faces up to life in prison and is being held at Tulsa County Jail in Oklahoma.

Taliferro was shot and killed on June 29 as he slept in an apartment building in southern Kansas City.

In the days leading up to the shooting, Ellis had allegedly assaulted a woman, identified as the sister of LeGend’s father, who was in the apartment at the time of the shooting. The woman said she has a child with Ellis. Ellis was injured in a confrontation afterwards with the woman’s brothers at his residence, during which the woman threatened the brothers with a gun.

LeGend’s death spurred the creation of Operation Legend, a federal anti-crime initiative which the DOJ described as “a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative across all federal law enforcement agencies working in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight the sudden surge of violent crime.”

Last month, the operation sent more than 200 federal agents from the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Marshals office to Kansas City, which has seen a 40 percent spike this year in homicides over last year. More than 150 people have been arrested in the city as a result.

Federal agents have also been sent to Chicago, Albuquerque, Cleveland, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Memphis, and Detroit as part of Operation Legend.

“Although LeGend’s suspected murderer has been arrested, Operation Legend will go on,” Barr said.

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