The KC Strip is the sirloin of Kansas City media, a critical cut of surmisin' steak that each week weighs in on the issues of the day, dictating its column to Pitch managing editor Tony Ortega.

The Hood 

A black couple in Independence wonders about the price of peace and quiet.

This meat patty is continually amazed at how some people in this town just can't seem to get along with other folks who don't look exactly like them.

Kelvin Williams feels the same way. He figures Independence police would have hauled him away the minute they realized that a black man in the 92-percent-white town had threatened to slit the throat of a white woman.

"I'd have been arrested quick," says the 40-year-old African-American, who works as a cook at McCormick & Schmick's on the Plaza but lives in the eastern Jackson County town.

Thing is, it was his white neighbor who threatened to open a vein in the neck of Williams' wife, Stephanie, a black woman who works at the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City. And the Williamses are still waiting for help from the law.

Kelvin and Stephanie moved to Independence two years ago. Soon, they say, their neighbors -- all of whom were white -- welcomed them warmly, sharing phone numbers and swapping lawn-care advice.

Well, except for the people who lived immediately to the west.

Michael and Samantha Butner gave the Williamses a cold reception, Stephanie says, and then seemed to avoid contact with the black couple. Stephanie says she tried not to hold it against them.

But it was hard to ignore the Butners, their children and their two enormous dogs, which often ran into their yard. One morning, Kelvin says, the Butner kids were trampling his recently reseeded lawn. He says he politely requested that Samantha Butner ask her children to keep out of his yard, and he says she agreed civilly.

But the next day, Kelvin says, Michael Butner walked over to his yard and challenged him about what Kelvin had said to his wife. He says Butner was so bold that it shocked him, so he asked Butner to get off his property. Stephanie, who was on the porch watching, also told Butner to back off.

Butner, they claim, didn't take kindly to the admonition.

"I'll slit both of your goddamned throats, fucking niggers," they recall the 45-year-old white man saying.

Stephanie and Kelvin called the police, and they were amazed when officers arrived and said that they were well aware of Michael Butner.

Officers had been to the Butner residence "approximately 17 times in the last year," the Independence Police Department's incident report would show.

But police refused to arrest Butner. "The police yelled at him very aggressively," Stephanie tells the Strip. And then they left.

The next month, Kelvin and Stephanie paid $1,184 to put up a wooden privacy fence between the two houses. But soon, Stephanie says, Butner began claiming that the fence had been built on the Butners' side of the property line. After paying $475 to hire a surveyor, Kelvin and Stephanie found to their dismay that Butner was right. The fence was six inches into the Butners' property.

Butner took advantage of the fence's position to begin attaching items to it, such as a wooden gate on his side. Twice more, police arrived after flare-ups between the two families.

On June 5, the Williamses noticed that Michael Butner had nailed a two-by-four to their side of the fence. That was the last straw, Kelvin says. He removed the board; that, the couple says, set off Butner.

When police arrived this time, they say, Butner was ranting at the cops, waving around his two-by-four. Once again, the police yelled at Butner but refused to take him in.

Kelvin says he can imagine what police would have done if they'd found him, a black man, waving a wooden board at them aggressively. He would have been in custody before he could blink, Kelvin says. Sadly, this pontificating porterhouse doesn't doubt it.

Eventually, police did take Butner and his wife into custody -- on outstanding warrants related to unpaid traffic fines.

Meanwhile, Butner offered the police some choice testimony. "Mr. Butner continually advised me that, 'this is a white man's neighborhood and that he did not want any niggers living around him,'" Independence Police officer Joel Poindexter writes in the June incident report.

Butner says he never uttered any such thing to Poindexter. "That police officer is a piece of crap," he tells the Strip. "One of my best friends is black. These people [the Williamses] are black, but that's not it. It's their fucking attitude."

While the Butners were being taken into custody, Stephanie says an Independence Police officer told them, "This guy is mad as hell. You better be careful."

The next day, the couple went to municipal court and sought an order of protection. Judge Twila Rigby turned down their request. "She said it [an order] would not help the situation," Stephanie says.

Two weeks later, the couple approached Independence prosecutor Mitch Langford, who admitted, the Williamses say, that he felt "truly embarrassed" by what had happened. But he said there wasn't much he could do.

Langford filed a minor nuisance charge against the Butners. But Stephanie says the prosecutor won't return their calls. Langford also didn't return numerous calls from the Strip.

Independence Police Chief Fred Mills did take his meat patty's phone call, though, and he says he's read the police reports. "I've talked to Mr. Williams, and I've assured him we're doing everything we can," Mills tells the Strip. "We're going to see if Mr. Butner will do mediation. If someone has those kinds of prejudices, can I change it? I don't know that I can. But I need to make that effort. That kind of behavior is inexcusable. It's horrible."

Well, we're glad to hear that the chief feels that way.

Last week, the Williamses had their fence moved, at a cost of $510. Stephanie says she's been asked by friends if the confrontations might eventually chase her out of the neighborhood. "I'm a fighter," she says, shaking her head. "I bought this house because I want to live here. And nobody's going to move me away."

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