Murder Rate Spikes in New Orleans Four men in New Orleans were killed on Monday, marking the deadliest day in the city. All four victims were shot in the head from point-blank range, but the murders did not appear to be connected. At least 55 people have been killed in New Orleans so far this year.
NPR logo

Murder Rate Spikes in New Orleans

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9348942/9348944" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Murder Rate Spikes in New Orleans

Murder Rate Spikes in New Orleans

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/9348942/9348944" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From the studios of NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

NOAH ADAMS, host:

And I'm Noah Adams.

Coming up, political news shakes the Democratic presidential race and Iran has freed its captured British sailors and marines. We will go to Washington, Tehran and to London.

CHADWICK: But we'll start today in New Orleans. The week began there with the deadliest violence seen in that city this year. On Monday, within 12 hours on Monday, four men were shot dead.

Unidentified Man: The violence today began around 4:00 this morning on AP Tureaud and then Michael Street. The violence continued this afternoon in the Ninth Ward and just a little while ago in New Orleans East.

ADAMS: About the Monday murders, the police superintendent said every victim was shot in the head from pointblank range but the killings did not appear to be connected.

Four men were killed on Monday. If you count from last Friday, that would make eight murders. If you count from January 1st: at least 55 people. Those are the numbers, and here's what happened on Monday. Reporter Alex Cohen takes us through a timeline of that day.

ALEX COHEN: The first shooting was at 4:00 AM in the Seventh Ward. The victim was found lying in the middle of AP Tureaud Street, the 2300 block. The moon that morning was nearly full. Twenty-two-year-old Terry Brock was shot outside of a social club called the Duck Off. New Orleans coroner Frank Minyard was awake then. He says he likes to get to the office by 5:00 AM because it's usually quite. He can get things done. The police called him just before 5:00. Terry Brock had been shot once, straight to the head.

Mr. FRANK MINYARD (Coroner, Orleans Parish): It was at close range, which means the assailant was within one foot of the victim when he fired the gun. And that's why we say it had to be someone whom he knew, and usually it's because of a drug retaliation problem.

COHEN: At the scene of the crime, police arrested two men. They were charged with murder after Terry Brock died at University Hospital that afternoon.

ADAMS: The next killing was a domestic dispute. A middle-aged man named Cleveland Daniels was shot several times. When police arrived at his home, Daniels was dead. They suspect the 17-year-old son of Mr. Daniels' girlfriend. There are reports connecting the teenager to another killing four months ago in Jefferson Parish.

COHEN: Police say Cleveland Daniels and his girlfriend had been fighting that day. She wanted to kick him out. They lived on the 1200 Block of Michael Street, that's where officers responded to a call around 9:00 AM, Monday. Michael Street is in the Algiers neighborhood, west of the Mississippi River. John Dugan(ph) grew up there and he now owns the J&K Cafe & Bar, a block away from where Cleveland Daniels was killed. Most nights, the bar stays open until 2:00 or 3:00 AM. Some weekends, people drink there until the sun rises. But that may change.

Mr. JOHN DUGAN: Everyone is scared to come. No one wants to come around, especially nighttime. You know, as soon as it gets dark, I mean, like me and my managers were talking about changing our hours because I'm not doing any business after it gets dark. It's not looking good, I could tell you that, for my business at least.

COHEN: By midday, word of two shootings was spreading. One person started a death pool on an online forum at NOLA.com. Bids were placed on how many people will die in New Orleans by year's end. One user puts the number at 275 and adds: Let's do it like "The Price Is Right," the one who gets closest to the right number without going over wins.

CHADWICK: Monday's third victim was 21 years old. Alexander Williams was shot multiple times in the head and the body.

COHEN: Just before 3:00, when the New Orleans police arrived on the scene in the outskirts of the Gentilly neighborhood, Alexander Williams wasn't dead yet. Officer Sabrina Richardson was there.

Officer SABRINA RICHARDSON (New Orleans Police Department): The EMS workers, when they first arrived on the scene, they attempted to resuscitate the victim. At some point they had a slight pulse, they prepared the victim to be transported to the hospital, they had loaded him into the ambulance, at which time that's when he flatlined and was pronounced dead on the scene.

COHEN: That's about when 24-year-old crime reporter Brendan McCarthy showed up. McCarthy writes for the Times-Picayune. He's only been in New Orleans for three months. When Monday started, nothing struck McCarthy as out of the ordinary even though there were two shootings before 9:00 AM.

Mr. BRENDAN MCCARTHY (Reporter, The Times-Picayune): There's several, usually, typically several shootings overnight, so not every shooting that we can go out on. Essentially, I'm armed with a, you know, sort of a cumbersome police radio, big handheld brick of a thing. And the big call came just after 2:00 PM, but it was a 34S, which is police code for aggravated shooting.

COHEN: McCarthy jumped in his car, New Orleans map in hand, and drove well above the speed limit to the scene at Louisa Street.

Mr. McCARTHY: And right there in the middle of the street was a young male who had been shot. Around him police were putting down these little fluorescent colored cones, which are numbered - they're markings for shell casings.

COHEN: Were you able to get much information about who had been killed or why he had been killed at that Louisa Street shooting?

Mr. McCARTHY: At that scene on Louisa Street they were about 15 young men about 20 paces away from the deceased gentleman, just on the street corner staring. You know, and you go by, you ask them, you know this fellow, it's just met with silence. And that's a lot of what the police investigators are encountering, too. When they go to crime scenes, they're fighting a tough battle.

COHEN: Just then, McCarthy got another call on his police scanner, there had been another shooting, another man dead.

CHADWICK: The fourth victim on Monday was 29-year-old Terry Hall, shot dead on the corner of Ransom and Dale Streets in New Orleans East.

COHEN: Shortly after 3:00, officers found Terry Hall. His body was pierced by gunshot wounds, including one to the head. Less than an hour later, Mayor Ray Nagin showed up in a black car with tinted windows. He told reporters that he does not talk at crime scenes.

Pastor Robert Brown of the Ray Avenue Baptist Church got a call from one of his parishioners soon after. Brown says if this had happened before Hurricane Katrina, kids would just be getting out of school at that time of day, but the schools nearby are all shut down now. This Monday, Brown says he was thankful for that once he saw the crime scene.

Reverend ROBERT BROWN (Ray Avenue Baptist Church): It was just appalling of - because usually they're supposed - usually cover the body up. But they just allowed his body to lie uncovered for an extreme period of time in the street.

COHEN: Later, the police say a 19-year-old male is wanted for Terry Hall's shooting, which they believe was drug-related. The bodies of Terry Brock, Cleveland Daniels, Alexander Williams and Terry Hall were all delivered to the office of coroner Frank Minyard. By 6:00 that evening, Minjurd says, he wondered just how long his day would turn out to be.

Mr. MINJURD: We still got six hours to go before it's tomorrow. I just hope we don't have anymore. We've had a bunch of murders that you wouldn't think, ordinarily, they wouldn't happen. Like, murders never happen during Mardi Gras. Murders never happen during jazz festival.

But it's just an ordinary Monday, a blue Monday. Everybody in New Orleans eats red beans and does their washing. And then all of a sudden, boom, four murders. I mean, you know, it's mind-boggling.

CHADWICK: Those dispatches and details from Monday's killings in New Orleans were assembled by NPR's Alex Cohen.

ADAMS: Imagine being a criminologist on the faculty of the University of New Orleans with these stories whirling all around you. That has been the case for Peter Scharf, who is now teaching at Texas State. He joins us from Austin.

What do you tell people who want to come to New Orleans. Is there indeed a safe neighborhood? Can you be in the French Quarter, can you go out to dinner, can you find things to do in Audubon Park, for example, that are perfectly safe, and you'll never know about these shootings.

Professor PETER SCHARF (Criminology, Texas State University): Have a great dinner at NOLA's; I know you'll love it. Don't turn right. Don't go past Rampart Street into the highly lethal project area right on the other side of Rampart Street.

ADAMS: In the French Quarter, what you're talking about.

Prof. SCHARF: Right in the French Quarter. Also in the Audubon area, there have been murders on St. Charles Avenue, which are right next to it. And you can hear gunfire occasionally from these half-million-dollar homes on St. Charles Avenue. It has become an equal opportunity killing city in a certain way. There are areas of the city that were thought to be immune from this kind of violence so the notion that really, except in the most protected, the green zones of New Orleans, if you want to call it that, you know, you're protected is illusory.

ADAMS: But indeed you can move through your day in certain neighborhoods in New Orleans and not know these killings are happening and not really be in danger.

Prof. SCHARF: Of course, they're spread out. But there was one murder right on St. Charles Avenue in a daiquiri shop, and one of the startling things about that murder was that 60 people saw it and they all ran away from the police. No one would testify. Virtually everybody in New Orleans has been affected by this epidemic of murder.

ADAMS: Well, let's go back to the question, what's going on? Is it indeed simply drug retribution?

Prof. SCHARF: Most of them are drug-related murders, and the question is why are we 15 times higher than New York City, four times Cleveland. I mean Cleveland's demographically somewhat similar. The courts are slow, the D.A. can't convict anybody. We had 162 murders last year and one conviction. In New Orleans, we talk about the 701, 701s are 60-day mandatory releases where if they don't charge you, you walk.

ADAMS: If you're accused of murder you get back out.

Prof. SCHARF: Yeah. You go back out. And the inmates, when the intelligence people listen and they're saying well I'll be out in 60 days. I'm out November 22nd. You know, and they call it the misdemeanor murder. Oh what are you in here for man? I'm in here for misdemeanor murder. So the deterrence level has basically gone to zero. The third hypothesis we're doing research on is what were the consequences of the hurricane. The evacuees leave and really dumb criminologists like me said, woo, they're gone. Hurricane Katrina did what community policing couldn't do and and they're never coming back. And then, by God, they came back and they also got closer to the drug supply. They sort of morphed with the Houston gangs. They learned a lot of bad habits from the Houston gangs, like doing drive-bys efficiently. Also a lot of the young kids came back without their parents and without their grandparents and their uncles. So a lot of the familial support that kept the young people in line didn't come back, so you had the risk factors but not the insulating factors.

ADAMS: To conclude here, are you expecting to see - this is said to be a slow time even though at this time last year there were 17 murders. Right now is said to be a slow time so that gets a bit scary. And there's this one thought that's been expressed, that if you've killed once, the second killing, the third wouldn't be all that important for you. Do you agree with that?

Prof. SCHARF: It becomes a lifestyle and you need to change the culture. And the best models to reduce the risks of homicides, they don't just put people in jail but they change the culture. And clearly there are young people in the city who have killed multiple times. Some of them have been in jail multiple times for those killings and got out. And there's a large drug traffic. In Jefferson Parish the police showed me some cases of 15, 14, 16 year old murderers. Now are these just immature murderers who like to kill or are they kind of easily disposable tools in a very organized drug trade. It isn't even about drugs; it's about business. It's young entrepreneurs without a lot of rules, that are underground, and that's what these killings are about.

ADAMS: Peter Scharf teaches now at Texas State University and he spoke with us today from Austin. Thank you, sir.

Prof. SCHARF: Thank you.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.