Police send report on 1970 slaying to prosecutor

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 | 5:01 p.m. CST

KANSAS CITY — A police investigation into the fatal shooting of Kansas City civil rights leader Leon Jordan has been turned over to the Jackson County prosecutor 40 years after Jordan's death.

Civil rights advocate Alvin Sykes told The Kansas City Star he has been briefed twice on the police investigation. He had lobbied the Police Department to reopen the case last year after stories in the newspaper pointed toward an organized crime connection.

Sykes said the police probe found evidence that now-deceased mob boss Nick Civella gave his blessing for the July 15, 1970, shooting of Jordan outside the Green Duck Tavern, which Jordan owned.

Jordan was a former Kansas City police officer who also founded the black political club Freedom Inc. His bare-knuckle political style had angered people involved in both crime and politics and might have been one of the motives for his murder, said Sykes and others who knew him.

Police spokesman Capt. Jim Young declined to discuss specifics of the investigation other than to say it was complete and that the case file had been turned over to Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar.

Kanatzar said he doesn't know if his review of the hundreds of pages of evidence will lead to any prosecutions or how long it will take to come to a conclusion.

"We are reviewing the case, as the Police Department has requested," the prosecutor said. "But it's 900 pages long and will take some time."

He said he could end up declining the case, filing charges against anyone involved who is still alive or turning it back over to police.

"We want to carefully go through this case because the police spent a lot of time investigating it, so I hesitate to put a time frame on it," Kanatzar said.

In a story in late July, The Star discovered that police had lost the shotgun used to kill Jordan, then later found out from police that the weapon was found in the trunk of one of their patrol cars.

That's when police reopened the investigation into Jordan's death.

A police report obtained by the newspaper showed that the shotgun might have gotten into the hands of organized crime several years before the murder.

It is believed that black assailants connected with mob associate "Shotgun Joe" Centimano carried out the killing.

Centimano died of cancer in 1972, and police never questioned him. Civella died in 1983.

A cold case squad with the Kansas City Police Department determined last year that Centimano appears to have played a role in the murder, along with the leadership of the Kansas City mob.

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