A gay man has been killed in a brutal attack outside a nightclub.
Ta’Ron Carson, 24, left Aura in Kansas City near closing time and said goodbye to his friend, when a black SUV pulled up and two armed people got out.
They shot Carson to death.
Police are investigating whether the homicide, which happened in the early hours of Sunday, was a hate crime.
Carson’s friend Brittany Bronson heard the gunshots as she got to her car after saying her farewells to him just seconds earlier.
“I just thought someone was shooting in the air,” she told Fox 4 News.
“You don’t imagine things – seeing things like that, ever, especially not your friends.”
Bronson turned around, and watched helplessly as her friend, who was also known as Rio, died.
Through tears, she said: “I saw my boy, I saw Ta’Ron, I saw Rio, I saw my boo.
“I saw him on the ground. I saw him. I saw him go.”
Bronson said her friend was special.
“He loved himself, and in loving yourself you are able to love so many more people,” she said.
Another of Carson’s friends, D. Rashaan Gilmore, said: “In gay vernacular, particularly in black gay vernacular, there is a term called ‘beating your face,’ and so Rio would always be beat for the gods.
“That is just powder, pad, getting your face together, because he was beautiful.”
He added: “The beauty of Rio is that because of how he lived his life, it helped to free others to live their lives in that way.
Gary Junior also paid tribute to his friend, telling The Kansas City Star: “Ta’Ron was always himself.
“He was not ashamed of his sexuality. He did not hide himself from anybody. He was really about standing up for the LGBT community.”
Junior said Carson had not argued with anyone at Aura, and had left on good terms.
“There was nothing to say he was leery about anything,” he said. “He gave everybody hugs and said goodbye.”
Aura’s owner Stuart Salomon agreed, saying: “It was peaceful and docile,” he said. “Kids with glow sticks and hula hoops. Not a single person thrown out. Not a cross word.”
Breyana White said she had known him for nearly a decade, having met at Northeast High School, where Carson was made senior class president in 2011.
“He was really just like the life of the party,” said White.
“He was really outgoing, always welcoming to people, always, like, open to meeting new people. He just made sure everyone was happy and kept smiles on their faces.”
She added: “I’m still in disbelief.
“Kansas City lost a great person. They lost someone who was just full of life. He was just all about positivity.
“He was a good dancer. We always would just have fun.”