If either teenager outside the Walgreens had simply asked James Hill for something, his sister said, he would have given it to them.
Instead, Keidren Robinson and Tyrell Young robbed two people of a purse and cell phone one September night in Independence in 2016, and when Hill gave chase briefly, Young turned and fired a Glock .45 pistol once, hitting Hill in the chest, before fleeing on foot. Both teens were found at their nearby apartment – Young surrendered initially and Robinson was arrested after police breached the door.
Young, 18, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Friday morning at the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse in Independence, part of a plea agreement with Jackson County prosecutors. He had been charged with first-degree murder, and he also pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and three counts of armed criminal action.
Young will be sentenced Sept. 13 by Circuit Judge Marco Roldan, and as part of the plea agreement his sentences will run concurrently. He faces a minimum of 10 years in prison and up to 30 years or life. Robinson pleaded guilty to the same charges in January and was sentenced on May to 22 years in state prison.
“He was very active in the homeless community,” Hill's sister Lori said, noting the flowers that have been left by people at the west-side Walgreens sign. “He'll be missed by both families – his birth family and the homeless community.”
“He wasn't a saint, but he was a kind man,” added Hill's mother, Janet Byrd.
Byrd bemoaned not only the shooting that claimed her son, but the recent spree in Kansas City. Even without a trial, the court proceedings for two defendants, including whether or not they should be tried as adults, has left her court-weary.
“Too much shooting going on,” she said. “Four trials – we're going through hell, and I'm sick of it.
“I don't know if I can ever forgive those young men, but I do have compassion for their families. They'll probably get out eventually, and James never will.”
According to court documents, Hill and the two robbery victims were waiting for a bus ride shortly before midnight Sept. 22, 2016, when Young and Robinson robbed them at knife and gunpoint, taking a cell phone and a purse. Hill died at a local hospital from his single gunshot wound. Police later found the gun hidden in the apartment where Robinson said it would be.