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Talking with children who have witnessed violent crimes

Two crimes.

One, a shooting outside a Church's Chicken that killed one person and injured others, including a child.

"This is a devastating scene," Sgt. Kari Thompson, a Kansas City Police Department spokeswoman, said.

Police said another child, who wasn't hurt, saw the shooting.

Almost one week earlier shots were fired into a home killing 9-year-old Jayden and his cousin, 8-year-old Montell. In this case, other children also witnessed the violence.

"It changes their presumption of safety," Dr. Bob Batterson, a child psychiatrist at Children's Mercy, said.

Batterson helps children and adolescences who've seen traumatic events.

“Some people who are highly traumatized cannot even remember a lot of specific details about the event. It's almost as if they were in a state of shock in what happened so that changes the grieving process," Batterson said.

There are warning signs to look for.

With older children, it's anxiety, sleep deprivation, fear of separation and they're hyper-vigilant. But those under the age of six, you can see it in the way they play.

"Maybe monsters are attacking in ways that they hadn't quite attacked before or there may be some large evil that's out there but the play may be kind of symbolic of the trauma," Batterson said.

In the immediate aftermath, police offer support in a number of ways.

This past summer, officers and detectives tended to the children whose mother was killed in front of them in Pendleton Heights.

There's also Jennifer Miller, the KCPD's victim advocate.

"With a child I go back to making that little one feel safe, especially if it's a parent or caregiver that has been injured or killed. They need to be in a safe environment," Miller said.

She stays in touch throughout the grieving process, but there's only so much she can do.

"Even after a funeral, even after charges have been filed, even after someone has been sentenced it is not the end for that family," Miller said.


See and watch the full story via KSHB 41.

Learn more about Children's Mercy's Division of Developmental and Behavioral Sciences.