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One charged in shooting of girl

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

A Northland Kansas City man with a lengthy criminal record faces felony charges after a shooting Friday evening outside a southwest Independence restaurant left a 9-year-old girl seriously injured.

Jackson County prosecutors charged Steven Abernathy, 33, with unlawful use of a weapon, first-degree assault and two counts of armed criminal action. He allegedly fired shots from an SUV chasing a car in which the girl was a passenger, and the girl was hit in the lower back. A 1-year-old child was also a passenger in the car.

Independence Police continue to investigate the case. A spokesperson said Monday morning the wounded girl remained hospitalized but her condition had improved.

The shooting happened shortly before 8 p.m. in the parking lot outside V’s Italiano Ristorante on U.S. 40. According to the court documents, the victim’s mother said she and her boyfriend were at the QuikTrip at U.S. 40 and Sterling Avenue when they noticed a man with whom they had an ongoing dispute about an armed robbery at their apartment complex, as well as that man’s girlfriend. The mother said the man, Ronald Wessley, got shot in self-defense. Kansas City Police investigated the case, but no charges were filed.

Wesley’s girlfriend, Hope Williams, said she and Wessley were concerned the mother and her boyfriend would try to harm them. When they returned to their SUV and mentioned the encounter, one of their passengers, Abernathy, pressured Wessley to follow the other vehicle and said he would “take care of this tonight.”

According to court documents, the mother said the SUV followed them out of QuikTrip and the shooter started firing as they turned into the drive toward their apartment, which is next to V’s. Her boyfriend swerved through the V’s parking lot and then turned back east on U.S. 40 as shots continued. The boyfriend said he dropped off the mother, the victim and the 1-year-old child at the Wal-Mart and drove away in case they were still being followed.

The boyfriend later led police to his vehicle, which had several bullet holes, the rear window shattered and rear tires flat. A VIN check showed the car had been reported stolen out of Kansas City, Kansas in mid-October.

The victim’s mother and her boyfriend said they did not shoot back at Wessley and Abernathy’s vehicle. After Williams turned herself in, she and Wessley said Abernathy was the lone shooter and no shots were fired back at their vehicle.

Police estimated they found more than two dozen shell casings in the parking and along the drive and U.S. 40.

Abernathy turned himself in to police but declined to speak with them. Court records show he has pleaded guilty to charges dating back more than a dozen years, including gun and drug charges, and has also served time in federal prison.

Prosecutors requested a $100,000 bond.