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Charges Filed For Shooting During Cape Central HS Graduation, Leaders and Citizens Speak Out at Monday City Council Meeting

The Show Me Center
Southeast Missouri State University
The Show Me Center

This is a developing story. Updated: 7:10 pm, May 21, 2024.

Two days after a shooting that interrupted what was supposed to be a joyful occasion—the Class of 2024 Cape Central High School graduation ceremony—details continue to emerge as families and community members share their experiences.

Many in attendance have described the event as 'chaos', but authorities were praised by city leaders during the Cape Girardeau City Council meeting Monday night, saying first responders acted quickly to contain the situation among the confusion.

One of the people at the event included Mayor Stacy Kinder, who among others, was there to see the graduation of one of her children.

"There was a lot of response immediately...so that was comforting to all of us who, you know, were having to just deal with our own emotions and concerns and fear." She added that "it was clear that right away, the situation was contained and we were indeed safe."

Mayor Kinder spoke about the incident during the regular Cape Girardeau City Council meeting addressing fellow council members and those in attendance. She talked about the ongoing investigation, asking for patience and support from the community as law enforcement and investigators work the case.

"There is an ongoing investigation into what's happened, and none of us here can speak to any of that. The Cape Girardeau-Bollinger County Major Case Squad has been activated and will be alerting the public to any updates in the case", said Kinder.

During the public comment portion of the of the Mon. May 20 City Council meeting, three people spoke out about the graduation ceremony shooting and overall gun crime concerns in Cape.

Resident Leslie Washington with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was the first to speak.

"As a person who lives in Cape Girardeau and goes to SEMO, I just wondered what my graduation is going to look like in two years", expressed Washington. "Are we going to have to have metal detectors or, you know, going down to five or 10 tickets for guests and our family members—And once again, this has happened in our community."

She also mentioned the upcoming 'Wear Orange' campaign which takes place June 7 to 9, 2024, 'honoring survivors and building community with those working to end gun violence'.

Michelle Latham, a business owner and resident in Cape voiced her concern.

"And the danger is so near in proximity to our communities too... and what should have been a joyous occasion—filled with hope and celebration was unfortunately interrupted by violence and chaos."

She also extended her thanks to the first responders, which included school resource officers, Southeast Missouri State DPS, and the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

Finally, resident and mother Alice Jenkins spoke up about what she sees as an increase in gun violence across the city, especially in certain areas, and concern for her and her family's safety.

"I'm just asking that you please do something about the gun violence, the drugs, or whatever is happening in Cape that negatively impacts the young people that would love to move back home, but decided not to", said Jenkins after explaining conversations she's had with her children, who are also graduates of Cape Central, SEMO and now young professionals.

After the meeting, we spoke with Brock Freeman, a SEMO Masters student, volunteering with the Rotary Club at one of the concession stands during the shooting.

"I heard a loud noise...I assumed [it was] a water bottle, [or a] metal water bottle that had dropped...similar to what they assumed inside—they [also] thought it was something else."

Freeman described the scene. "I then started seeing nachos fly, people run, scream and a mass panic began in front of me. And then I decided, you know...this is happening and this is real...and so I ducked underneath the concession stand table, and I got out my phone, and I called my mom to tell her I loved her."

Shortly before the meeting, the Cape Girardeau Police Department announced via Facebook that charges were filed for two individuals regarding the May 19 shooting at the Show Me Center.

On Monday, May 20, the Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's Office charged 20-year-old Kris E. Owens of Cape with a first-degree, class A felony assault, armed criminal action, and unlawful use of a weapon—a class E felony, regarding the May 19th shooting at the Show Me Center. Associate Judge Frank Miller issued the no-bond warrant.

41-year-old Christopher J. Owens was also charged with a class A misdemeanor of loitering within 500 feet of School Property as a registered sex offender. Associate Judge Julia Koester issued a $25,00 cash-only bond warrant.

Kris E. Owens and Christopher J. Owens were both taken into custody without incident on May 20, 2024.

The Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney's Office declined to file charges on the 'person of interest' who is being held pending further investigation and possible involvement.

The Cape Girardeau/Bollinger County Major Case Squad continues its investigation.

Classes were canceled for all Cape Public Schools on Monday and Tuesday. Counselors were made available from Noon to 2 pm on Tuesday at the Cape Central Middle and Cape Central High for all students, staff, families within the District, and any community member who needs support.

On Monday, May 20, the Office of the President at Southeast Missouri State University stated it was offering several support services, encouraging anyone 'who wants to speak with a professional about the event or any issue resulting from it, to please use these resources'. For SEMO students, this includes the University's Center for Behavioral Health and Accessibility.

This story was originally published on Sunday, May 19, 2024.

Two people were shot following an altercation during the Sunday afternoon graduation for Cape Central High School on May 19.

According to the police report, at around 2:33 PM the Cape Girardeau Police Department received multiple calls regarding gunfire inside the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, away from the graduation area on the upper-level concourse.

School Resource Officers with the Cape Girardeau Public School District were on-scene for high school graduation quickly detaining a person of interest, and giving aid to two victims.

Officers with the Cape Girardeau Police Department, Southeast Missouri State University Department of Public Safety, Cape Girardeau Sheriff’s Office, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Jackson Police Department, and ATF responded to the scene assisting in building security and crowd control.

The two victims were taken to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

A person of interest is in custody at the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

The Cape Girardeau/Bollinger County Major Case was activated.

On the Cape Central High School page, Superintendent Dr. Howard Benyon, issued a statement:

Dear CGPS Families and Staff, During our graduation ceremony today at the Show-Me Center, an altercation occurred forcing us to stop the ceremony and evacuate the building. Fortunately, no students or staff members were injured and thanks to the assistance of staff members at the Show-Me Center, we were able to get everyone out of the building safely. We are thankful for the quick response of our school resource officers who were already at the Show-Me Center and for Cape Police Department officers who responded to the call. We will be forced to reschedule the graduation ceremony at a later time. Please be patient with us as we work through this situation. We want to plan an event that celebrates our graduates the way they deserve, but our priority at this time is working with police to aid in their investigation of this situation. Sincerely, Dr. Howard Benyon, Superintendent

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