Everyone was family.
That’s how 66-year-old Douglas Menser thought of the many neighbors and friends that he came to know over his 30 years in south Kansas City’s Ruskin Heights neighborhood, said Kelly Strother, his daughter.
He was an Army veteran, proudly serving his country between 1974 and 1978, before taking a job in the oil fields in Louisiana. A mechanic, he eventually moved to Kansas City and worked for General Electric where he repaired tractor-trailers until retirement.
In the neighborhood and beyond, Menser also made a name for himself as a designer and builder of BBQ pits, putting his welding skills to further use. As he aged, and health problems that limited his mobility crept in, he still made an annual trip to where he grew up in Wisconsin, his smoker in tow, to cook meats for high school reunions — a highlight of his year.
He was also a father to three — and a foster grandfather to dozens of children Strother took care of in Kansas City until she relocated to Virginia. Everyone knew him as “Gramps,” she says.
“He was just friends with everybody,” Strother, the middle of Menser’s three children, told The Star. “Even the guy that killed him.”
On Jan. 19, Menser was shot inside his home and called 911 for help. Kansas City police were summoned there late morning and, hours later after a canvass of the neighborhood, arrested Donald E. Crowe. Menser died from his injuries.
Jackson County prosecutors have since charged Crowe, 39, with second-degree murder and armed criminal action. During his initial court appearance on Monday, a Jackson County judge ordered that Crowe be screened for eligibility to be represented by a public defender and that he undergo a psychological evaluation.
Strother said her family has known Crowe’s for at least two decades, having lived roughly a block away from one another since Crowe was a teenager. She said her dad treated Crowe and his siblings like his own kids, taking them out to fish and hunt and making sure they had school clothes when they were younger.
More recently, she said, her father offered Crowe a place to stay when he was kicked out of the house and facing homelessness.
Her father gave up his own bedroom and slept on the recliner in the front room so that Crowe would have a place to rest comfortably, she said. On the morning her father was shot, she says, the family believes Menser was cooking Crowe breakfast — a morning routine Menser kept despite his inability to walk some days.
“It looks like my dad went to see how many eggs Donald wanted,” Strother said. “And that’s where Donald shot him. Right outside of the bedroom door.”
A 911 call
Around 10:30 a.m., Kansas City police officers were dispatched to the 7600 block of East 108th Terrace on a reported shooting. Menser, the 911 caller, told a police dispatcher that he had been shot eight times and felt ready to pass out, according to court documents.
He identified his shooter during that call: Donald E. Crowe, a white man in his 40s who had left on foot in light-colored clothing. He also told the dispatcher that he “did not know why he was shot.”
Kansas City police found Menser on the front porch. He again told officers Crowe was the shooter, according to court documents, and was taken by ambulance to the hospital with critical injuries. He died at Research Medical Center less than two hours later.
Crowe was found near the corner of 107th Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard, roughly a half mile away, and by 2 p.m. was being interviewed at KCPD Headquarters.
In speaking with detectives, Crowe acknowledged being at the address after getting home from work that morning, around 5:30 a.m., and going to bed. He told police he woke up a few hours later and left the house on foot for a 7-Eleven convenience store nearby.
During his interview, Crowe “could not provide an explanation” for where he was between the time of the 911 call and where he was seen at the convenience store.
Police obtained video footage that allegedly shows Crowe arrive at 7-Eleven roughly an hour after the shooting. It was estimated to be an eight-minute walk door-to-door.
Crowe denied knowing anything about the shooting or being involved whatsoever and said Menser “was fine” when he left the house. He also said he and “did not know why” Menser would name him as his shooter, a Kansas City homicide detective wrote in a probable cause affidavit in support of charges against Crowe.
“In the light of the recent incident and his recent conduct, the case Detective believes the offender is a danger to himself and the public,” she wrote.
‘It wasn’t a shock’
Strother, Menser’s daughter, said she was able to organize his services for Tuesday, though she was not able to find all of his friends because his cellphone remains in evidence lockup. Menser was buried with full military honors at Hocker Cemetery in Knob Knoster.
Among those who attended was Marilyn Kalous, Menser’s younger sister, who is retired Air Force and now lives in Washington state.
“He was a great brother, he was very patriotic, and he went too soon,” she said.
In the time since his sudden death, Strother said she has not been consumed with questions of why her father was killed. She had long worried about Crowe.
Strother moved to the house down the block from Crowe when she was 12 and knew him growing up. As of late, she said, she has heard from her father and others about Crowe’s mental health and aggressive behavior. She said her father has been trying to get in touch with his case worker for over a year.
“It wasn’t a shock,” Strother said, adding that she feels Kansas City’s social service resources are lacking, and that responsibility for Crowe was essentially “dumped” on her dad.
“Nothing was done. No services were ever provided,” Strother said.
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