Ozark County man mourns his great-niece who was killed last week by KC Police
Another distant tragedy has impacted an Ozark Countian.
Zanoni resident Ray McDaniel was shocked and heartbroken to learn last week that the young woman who was shot and killed Thursday by Kansas City Police was his great-niece who, 20 years ago, had been a flower girl at his wedding.
Ashley Fulkerson, 28, who is also identified in news stories as Ashley Simonetti, died Thursday in Kansas City North when she was shot by police after she ran from a building where she had been holed up with what police said was a decorative Japanese sword.
McDaniel’s sister, Matha Fulkerson, told the Times Monday that she and her husband, Robert, had raised Ashley in their Kansas City-area home and had gotten custody of the child when Ashley’s mother struggled with a drug problem. “She was living at our house from the time she was about six months old,” Fulkerson said.
Ashley was 8 when she was one of two flower girls at Ray and Lillie McDaniel’s wedding in Arkansas 20 years ago. Lillie McDaniel died in 2009.
“I sang, ‘Froggy went a Courtin’” over and over with Ashley when she was a little girl. She loved that song,” McDaniel said. “She was very intelligent, but everyone in the family agrees that Ashley was a child who just didn’t grow up.”
He recalled the last time he saw her, last fall, when he visited his sister at her current home in Platte City. “She would ask question after question after question: ‘What’s in outer space? What’s in the cosmo?’ Unanswerable questions,” he said, laughing.
The Kansas City Star reported that those who knew Ashley said that although she sometimes “acted peculiar, she was never a danger to others.” She was a petite woman and was “quite childlike,” McDaniel said.
“She was 28, but in many ways she was still a child. She was a grown-up child,” Fulkerson said.
While she lived with her Fulkerson grandparents during high school, Ashley won contests and honors for her paintings and sculptures. Her grandparents took her all over the area so she could compete in chess tournaments.
She liked to walk in the woods near the Fulkersons’ country home, Matha said. “And it was like the animals migrated more to our house because she was always out, and they were never afraid of her.”
In recent years, Ashley had moved in with her mother in another part of Kansas City, and then she also may have lived with a boyfriend, Fulkerson said. She had gotten involved with drugs, and during one drug-involved episode she had done some damage to her grandparents’ house. She was charged with destruction of property and was on probation, Fulkerson said.
“She was supposed to be reporting to her probation officer – and she did, until she got back on drugs. Then it wasn’t important, or she didn’t even remember she was supposed to,” Fulkerson said. “At first, she was working and she bought a car and was doing just great after the property thing. We thought everything was fine. Then I think she got back with some friends who did drugs and started again, but I can’t be sure. She kinda quit calling us because she knew what we thought about it.”
Fulkerson said recently Ashley had become fascinated with some kind of Asian martial arts sticks “that are tied together with ropes,” Fulkerson said. “She would work with them for hours. She would get out on her driveway and spin those things and never hit herself. I don’t know how she did it.”
All the details of last week’s deadly incident aren’t clear, but news reports say Ashley allegedly entered a home near her mother’s neighborhood on Thursday and apparently took a decorative Japanese sword from a closet and put on a bridesmaid’s dress she found.
The owners of the home were alerted that someone was in their home when their alarm company called them at work around 1:30 p.m. Police responded, and Ashley escaped from the home through a window – apparently taking the sword with her.
“Because she was on probation and hadn’t been going, there was a warrant for her arrest. So when the police came, she ran,” Fulkerson said.
The Kansas City Star quoted a neighbor who watched the scene unfold. He said Ashley “tried to enter other homes ... but failed.” Then she “holed up in the detached garage behind a burned-out home.”
As many as 15 police officers reportedly responded to the scene. A negotiator was brought in – as well as a truck with a ram attached. The situation continued for hours in the 90-degree heat.
Around 4 p.m., the police “tried to enter the garage with a battering ram,” the Star reported. Ashley “sneaked under the bashed garage door and took off running.”
The neighbor told the Star, “They opened fire on her and dropped her there.”
By some reports, as many as 10 shots may have been fired.
Surely the police had other options than shooting Ashley, McDaniel said.
“She was tiny, and she was never athletic. They could have caught her, tazed her ...,” said McDaniel, who worked in Mountain Home, Arkansas, radio stations in his younger years. “I’m not anti-police. As an old newsman, I’ve had so much association with law officers; I’ve had them as my hunting friends. But now there’s a young woman who’s dead for no reason, and I just don’t believe they had to shoot her.”
His sister, Matha Fulkerson, agrees. When her daughter, Ashley’s mother, called her in hysterics Thursday, Matha and her husband rushed to the scene. “It was all roped off with yellow tape. Janna had gotten there first and tried to run through it, and they were so rude to her. They made her wait two blocks down the street. We all sat there three or four hours, and no police came to talk to us until 8:30 that night. Finally one did come and said they weren’t going to let us in and we better go home,” Fulkerson said Monday. “They still have her somewhere, the medical examiner’s I guess.”
The family has hired a lawyer, hoping to “find out exactly what happened.”
Among other things, Fulkerson wants to know if Ashley had the sword when she ran from the bashed-in garage – and if she was shot in the back as she ran.
“A neighbor watched the whole thing. ... He said there were 15 police officers and an armored car,” she said. “All for one little girl in hiding. She only weighed 90 pounds – a tiny little thing. They said their lives were threatened. That’s such a lie.”
Although the body had not been released to the family on Monday, Ashley’s mother and grandparents were planning her memorial service, expecting it to be held Friday in Bonner Springs, Kansas.
Ashley was one of three people in Kansas City who died in police-involved shootings Thursday. About an hour after she died, officers shot and killed two men who were fighting in downtown Kansas City.