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Shots, a scuffle, more shots – a homicide

The Examiner staff

A Lee’s Summit man has been charged in Thursday night’s killing in northeast Independence.

Aries K. Walton-Merritt, 23, faces charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. He is on probation on a previous conviction for second-degree assault and armed criminal action. Prosecutors asked that he be held on $100,000 bond.

Police say the confrontation happened in a cul-de-sac on East Wigwam Place at 6:24 p.m. Thursday.

A neighbor's surveillance video shows the victim, Matthew Bland-Williams, going to a house on the cul-de-sac. As he was getting out of his silver Ford Mustang, Walton-Merritt walked up to him and shot him twice, point blank.

Then the two men fought, Bland-Williams managed to get Walton-Merritt’s 9mm handgun. As Walton-Merritt got into his black Camero to flee, Bland-Williams fired several shots into the car. Walton-Merritt sped away, crashing into the Mustang and badly damaging both vehicles.

A witness said Bland-Williams collapsed on the front porch of the house he had gone to visit. Police arrived and rendered aid, but he was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Walton-Merritt drove to the home of someone he knew several blocks away, where he collapsed, said he had been shot and asked to be taken to the hospital. He survived his wounds.

Through the Jackson County prosecutor’s office, Pamela Bland, the mother of Matthew Bland-Williams, released a statement:

“Matthew Bland-Williams was a funny and loving son. Although he was an only child, he was close to his eleven first cousins and had a large group of friends.

“Helping others came naturally to Matthew. … When our family was told he was taking his friend food, at the time of his death, this act of kindness felt like something Matthew would do.

“Like so many victims of violent crime, Matthew’s future was bright. He had plans to move in with his best friend and put a difficult time behind him. His life was snatched away before he could reach his full potential and start a new business.

“We are grateful for the quick action of police and the prosecutor to identify and charge one suspect. We look forward to learning the truth about what happened. We want everyone involved in his death held accountable.”