‘Her spirit probably knew’: Relatives still in shock after Lawrence teen’s shooting death in Olathe

photo by: Contributed

Brianna Higgins

The day 15-year-old Brianna Higgins was fatally shot, she woke up full of energy — and wanted to make sure her family knew it.

Brianna’s older sister, Iona Wakole, recalls that morning, Jan. 19, when the rest of the household awoke to Brianna belting out one of her favorite songs by R&B artist Keyshia Cole.

“She woke the whole house up, and I started singing with her from downstairs,” Wakole said.

Nobody could have guessed then that the Lawrence High School student would be shot and killed that night in Olathe.

“She told us that she felt like she was going to have the best day — but her spirit probably knew, and that breaks my heart,” Wakole said. “It’s not going to be the same without her.”

As the Journal-World has reported, Brianna was shot shortly before 11 p.m. near the 16900 block of West 127th Street in Olathe. On Tuesday, the Olathe Police Department said it had arrested a 17-year-old boy on suspicion of “second-degree homicide” in connection with the shooting.

Although few details about the circumstances of the shooting have been released, Brianna’s father, Leonard Higgins, said he appreciated the police’s efforts and communication with the family about “details that will come out at a later date.”

“I’m just trying not to sabotage my daughter’s case,” he told the Journal-World on Wednesday. “Nobody really knows the whole story, but they did give us a lot of info yesterday and they’re really trying to help.”

Leonard said that “Brianna was my world” and that she “was always the life of the house.”

Wakole recalled Brianna’s talents as an athlete; she was good at softball during middle school, and although she took a break from the sport after entering high school, Wakole said she had been excited about possibly returning to the diamond.

“She eventually wanted to become a professional softball player,” Wakole said, and she had been mentoring her younger siblings: “Brianna is the reason they want to play softball.”

photo by: Contributed

In this undated picture, Brianna Higgins is pictured with her father, Leonard, after competing in a softball tournament.

For now, Wakole is still in shock “that somebody could do this” to her sister. She said that Brianna was hanging out with people she knew in Olathe that night, and that she “spoke very highly of them.”

The idea that this could happen while she was with people she respected is “what hurts the most,” Wakole said.

“Brianna was the most loyal person, and just a beautiful soul,” Wakole said. “And that’s what breaks my heart the most, because she would have done everything in her power to make sure that her friends were OK.”

Funeral services for Brianna are scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at First United Methodist Church West Campus, 867 U.S. Highway 40. Leonard told the Journal-World that the family was tentatively planning a balloon release after the service. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the family with funeral expenses, and as of Wednesday evening, it had raised $8,940 of its $20,000 goal.

Wakole said that the support she’s felt from the community has helped ease some of the anguish “and proves how much she was loved and cared about by everybody.”

“I’m praying for the strength to make it through this,” she said.


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