Ryson Ellis is a 22-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, man who was arrested and charged on Aug. 13 with the June 29 murder of 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro.
LeGend’s murder sparked an FBI investigation and a nationwide Justice Department crackdown on violent offenders, which the Justice Department named after the boy. A number of anonymous tips and the testimony of a woman who claims to have driven Ellis to the scene of the shooting helped lead police to Ellis, according to court documents.
Here’s what you need to know about Ryson Ellis and the charges he faces in LeGend’s murder:
1. LeGend Was Shot & Killed on June 29 While He Was Sleeping Inside His Father’s Home
On June 29, at around 2:30 a.m., LeGend was asleep in his father’s home at the Citadel apartments in Kansas City when gunfire erupted from outside, according to court documents. The shots came from behind the building, coming through a fence and glass door, prosecutors said.
LeGend was driven to a local hospital, where he later died, KHSB reported.
There were witnesses. Someone in the parking lot described the shooter as having a “fade cut” and a goatee, prosecutors said. A woman inside LeGend’s father’s home at the time said she was sleeping on the couch and pointed investigators to Ellis, with whom she has a child. Investigators checked Ellis’ Facebook profile.
The vehicle prosecutors allege Ellis came in was seen on surveillance video as well; it was a rental and driven by a woman who was unidentified at the time.
2. LeGend Underwent Open-Heart Surgery When He Was 4 Months Old & Had the ‘Heart of a Lion,’ His Mom Said
In LeGend’s obituary, his family wrote that he was forced to undergo heart surgery when he was just 4 months old. After that, he became their “living legend.” The boy also was to participate in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk and had the “heart of a lion,” they wrote.
LeGend attended daycare and played basketball with the JCA Ballers league; he was also very inquisitive.
“LeGend brought joy to the life of anyone he met,” his family wrote. “He loved sports, dinosaurs, music, dancing, shoes, FaceTiming and singing. One of his specialties was asking questions that made us have to research the answers.”
At a news conference Thursday, LeGend’s mother, Charron Powell, said she was glad her son’s killer would face justice, but said things needed to change in her city, the Kansas City Star reported.
“This should enlighten us that we have a problem in this city and the only way we can solve it is coming together as a community,” she said.
3. The FBI Opened an Investigation Into LeGend’s Murder, Offering a $25,000 Reward for Information Leading to an Arrest
LeGend’s murder sparked national attention, with the FBI opening an investigation and U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr announcing a nationwide crackdown on violent crime named in LeGend’s honor on July 8.
“The department’s Operation Legend is named in honor of one of Kansas City’s youngest victims, 4-year old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot in the face while sleeping in his bed,” Barr said in a statement. “LeGend’s death is a horrifying reminder that violent crime left unchecked is a threat to us all and cannot be allowed to continue.”
The FBI offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the boy’s murder.
4. Ellis Was Arrested Thursday After a Number of Tips Pointed at Him & a Woman Claimed to Have Driven Him to the Apartment Block Where He Committed the Shooting
According to court documents, LeGend was caught up in a violent dispute between Ellis and the boy’s family members.
The woman on the couch in LeGend’s father’s home told investigators that on June 23, Ellis attacked her, then “yanked” her baby from her arms. She told her family about the assault and her brothers went to Ellis’ place. One of her brothers was LeGend’s father, according to court documents.
At Ellis’ place, they attacked him until Ellis’ mother pulled a “long gun” and threatened them. After that, the woman stayed away from Ellis out of fear, she told investigators, and received threatening Facebook and text messages from Ellis and his mother.
Investigators tracked down the rental car they believed was used on the night of LeGend’s murder, and the woman who rented it was arrested, then agreed to talk with an attorney present. The woman, whose name was redacted in the court documents, told investigators that she was at a party that night with Ellis. Afterward, they went to a lounge, then Ellis asked her to drive him to the Citadel apartments.
She drove him there, he exited the vehicle, then she heard gunshots, the woman told investigators, according to the court documents. When Ellis got back in the car, the woman claimed, she heard a gun fall to the floor. She said she hasn’t spoken to Ellis since, and positively identified him from a photo.
Authorities arrested Ellis in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Thursday and charged him with LeGend’s murder.
5. Ellis Was Charged With 2nd Degree Murder & 3 Other Counts; He Is Being Held Without Bail at the Tulsa County Jail
According to Tulsa County Jail records, Ellis was arrested and booked around 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, and he is being held without bail.
Prosecutors announced the arrest at a news conference Thursday, where LeGend’s mother briefly spoke, calling the murder not only a tragedy for her family, but for that of Ellis, the Star reported.
“In reality … this is a lose situation for my family including his,” she said.
Attorney General Barr released a statement following Ellis’ arrest, praising the work of local and federal authorities:
Today’s arrest of LeGend Taliferro’s suspected murderer marks a significant step forward in his case and illustrates the potential of Operation Legend more broadly.
The arrest and state charges resulted from cooperation among Kansas City police officers, the FBI, and U.S. Marshals. This development is a model for joint efforts to solve crimes and reduce violence in other cities.
I thank the state and local law enforcement officers who helped make possible this important step in bringing justice to LeGend, to his family, and to his community.
Heavy could not immediately find attorney information for Ellis.