Journalist Starting New Job Covering Criminal Justice Is Killed in Home by Bullet Fired From Outside
The death of public radio reporter Aviva Okeson-Haberman, 24, is being investigated as a homicide, police tell PEOPLE
A young journalist preparing for a new role covering social issues and criminal justice has died after being struck by a bullet that pierced the window of her first-floor apartment in Kansas City, Missouri.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman, 24, "was just relentless in the pursuit of the truth," KCUR radio news director Lisa Rodriguez said in a broadcast segment recalling her colleague. "She knew when something wasn't right, and she was about accountability."
Kansas City police are investigating Okeson-Haberman's death as a homicide, a spokesman, David Jackson, tells PEOPLE. "We are not investigating any type of stray bullet situation associated with this case," he said in an email.
The news station reported that Okeson-Haberman died Sunday, two days after Rodriguez raised concern when Okeson-Haberman missed a meeting Friday and couldn't be reached by text or email.
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Another reporter, Peggy Lowe, went to Okeson-Haberman's apartment and called police for a welfare check when she couldn't get an answer. After Lowe and Okeson-Haberman's neighbors noticed a bullet hole in a window, they were able to see Okeson-Haberman wounded inside when they looked in.
"Aviva was a creative, thorough, challenging and insightful reporter. Always prepared, she told the full and complex story of our city in one of the most challenging years in its history," Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas wrote in a tweet. "Her life showed us her compassion for those who too often were voiceless."
"Her death lays bare our gravest unsolved epidemic and the preventable tragedies too many families endure," Lucas added.
Okeson-Haberman covered Missouri politics and government after starting with KCUR in 2019, the public radio station reported. On the day she was shot, she'd been scouting for a new apartment about 40 miles away in Lawrence, Kansas, ahead of starting a new assignment with KCUR partner Kansas News Service to focus on social issues and criminal justice, according to the station.
"Social services is a tough beat, but I'm a tough reporter," she wrote in her application for the new position. "I'll ask the hard questions, dig into the data and spend time building trust with sources. It's what's required to provide an unflinching look at how state government affects those entrusted to its care."
"Her instincts as a journalist were spot-on," Rodriguez said, reports KCUR. "I learned so much from her. Earlier this year, I turned down a pitch she had for a series — an audio diary of nurses fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines. Eventually, she wore me down and we agreed to one story."
"That piece was one of the most beautiful and emotional pieces of radio I've listened to," she said. "It brought me to tears each time I listened to it. That was just the kind of storyteller she was — she brought magic to everything."