Jon “Mike” Rone Jr. was killed on the 4th of July by repeated stab wounds to the chest.
Sean W. Tonkin is the man police believe stabbed Rone — during a confrontation in which, police say, he repeatedly shouted the n-word at him. This occurred just after, a witness tells Rolling Stone, Tonkin bragged he could “knock a [n-word] out.”
Tonkin, 36, is now in jail. But the only charges prosecutors have brought against him are for “Peace Disturbance” — a misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine — and an unrelated felony charge for possession of a small bag of meth.
Tonkin is a white man. Rone, 42, was Black.
Tonkin and Rone’s deadly encounter unfolded during the mid-afternoon of the Independence Day holiday, at a Liquor Land gas station on the outskirts of Kansas City, Mo.
According to a witness interviewed by Rolling Stone, Tonkin arrived at the gas station spewing hateful views about Black people. Melanie, who asked that only her first name be used, says that Tonkin had approached her van, behind the gas station, shortly before the violent encounter.
“He walked up and asked me for a ride. And I told him ‘No.’ And then he was talking all kinds of racist stuff. And he kept saying, ‘Do you want to see a white boy knock a [n-word] out?’ He said that over and over again.” She also recalls Tonkin saying, “I’ll show you who the supreme race is.”
(The independent news site Kansas City Defender was the first to report allegations that Tonkin made racist threats prior to the deadly confrontation with Rone.)
The gas station’s convenience store is a neighborhood hangout, where Rone’s partner Misty Beck tells Rolling Stone she and Mike liked to play the slot machines. Beck, 39, recalls that they’d been inside the store when Rone realized he’d forgotten his hat in the car, and headed out to retrieve it.
As Rone exited the store, the white man, described to police by witnesses as having a rose tattoo on his neck and ‘KC’ tattooed on his hand, confronted him — “out of nowhere,” Beck says. “I did not know this guy, and neither did Mike.”
Tonkin hurled slurs at Rone, the Jackson County prosecutor’s charging document, filed July 13, alleges. It states that Tonkin “unreasonably and knowingly” used the n-word against Rone “in a face-to-face manner… under circumstances likely to produce an immediate violent response from a reasonable person.”
The police affidavit supporting Tonkin’s arrest warrant is bare-bones, but it also records this racial animus. “Multiple witnesses” it says, heard Tonkin, “repeatedly using the word ‘n—–r’ [unredacted in the original] prior to, and during the verbal altercation with the victim in front of the business.”
Rone’s partner, Beck, says she heard trouble brewing. “Mike walked out to get his hat, and I heard someone loudly calling him the n-word,” she recalls. “I went outside and told Mike, ‘Hey, let’s just go back inside.’ And he was like, ‘No. Let me handle this.’ He was calm. And so I went back inside the gas station.”
The confrontation quickly escalated. The white man threw the first punch, according to a witness cited by the Kansas City Star. The violence that ensued is less clear. But both men may have had weapons.
The police affidavit does not cite eyewitnesses. It describes video footage from inside the convenience store that “captures the defendant, followed by the victim who is in possession of a club he retrieved from a vehicle, walking to the east end of the building,” where the deadly confrontation took place, “ultimately resulting in the victim being stabbed by the defendant.”
Trailing blood, staggered by stab wounds to his chest, Rone re-entered the convenience store, where he collapsed, according to the police affidavit and witnesses. A bystander reportedly performed CPR until paramedics arrived, but Rone couldn’t be revived, and he was declared dead at the scene, according to police documents.
The suspect fled, but a police manhunt soon tracked down Tonkin hiding in among trees less than 2 miles away, in neighboring Independence, Mo. His first question to cops, according to police records, was: “How’d you find me?” Tonkin allegedly had blood on the top of his head, on his baseball hat, and on a white T-shirt lying on the ground nearby; he also had a knife “with finger holes on the handle.”
When searched by Kansas City police, Tonkin was found to be carrying a baggy with 0.84 grams of meth, according to court paperwork, resulting in a class D felony charge punishable by up to 7 years in prison. For now, Tonkin faces a stiffer charge for possessing narcotics than for allegedly taking Rone’s life.
The police affidavit cites Tonkin’s “racially-charged and aggressive comments” to assert that he is a “risk to the community” as well as a “risk of flight.” Tonkin been in custody since his arrest, presently held subject to $25,000 bail. The public defender listed on Tonkin’s court filing did not return a call from Rolling Stone seeking comment on his behalf.
Rone’s family believes that he was “murdered” in a “hate crime.” A GoFundMe for his memorial service recalls him as a “Father, Brother, Uncle and Friend” who “never bothered anyone, minded his business and loved simply.” And it promises a “legal battle” to “get justice for Mike.”
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s office, however, is defending its misdemeanor charging of Tonkin. In a statement sent to Rolling Stone that repeatedly misspells Rone’s last name, the prosecutor’s office acknowledges that Tonkin “used highly disturbing racial slurs during this incident,” but it insists: “We have filed the available Missouri charges that address those racist comments which were made to Jon Rhone [sic] in a face-to-face manner.”
The statement does indicate that additional charges could be brought. “The investigation continues into the fatal stabbing,” it says, adding that the inquiry “must examine who started the incident, what weapons were used… and Missouri’s law on self-defense. These factors will direct whether further State charges regarding Mr. Rhone’s [sic] homicide can be filed.” The state has a notorious stand-your-ground law that can make prosecuting uses of deadly force difficult.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, who has served in office since 2011, is a protege of former Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who was the first woman to lead the office. Peters Baker has modeled herself as a progressive in her tenure; she recently announced she will not seek reelection in 2024.
The statement from the prosecutor’s office also states that it is willing to assist the “Justice Department in their review of this incident for possible federal charges under their available laws.” The Kansas City FBI tells Rolling Stone that the bureau is “aware of the incident and is in communication with our law enforcement partners.”
Rone’s partner Beck tells Rolling Stone that the local prosecutor’s current approach “makes me sick to my stomach. It’s just crazy to me that that’s all he’s been charged with,” she says. “It’s not fair. Mike definitely didn’t deserve what happened that day. He was a really good man.”
Tonkin has a bail hearing set for Monday, July 24. If he’s released, court instructions state, he’s to have “no contact with the victim’s family or any witnesses” and he’s “not to possess or be in the presence of any weapons.”
Read the charging documents for Tonkin below:
Source link: https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/jon-mike-rone-stabbing-peace-disturbance-kansas-city-1234794077/