A recent Destrehan High School graduate was shot to death in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of St. Rose Friday night.
It was the second murder of a teen in the neighborhood in the last seven months. Family members of the most recent victim believe the crimes are connected.
St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said Michael McCray Jr., 18, was parked in a car with Leslie Reed, 19, in a driveway at 644 Mockingbird Lane in St. Rose at around 10:30 p.m. when three suspects approached the vehicle and one opened fire on the car.
The two victims were allegedly smoking marijuana in the car parked in Reed’s uncle’s driveway at the time of the shooting.
According to Champagne, the suspects were dressed in black and wearing hoods. After seeing the men approach, Champagne said McCray put the vehicle in reverse and tried to flee the scene, but was only able to move a few feet before being stopped by gunfire.
McCray’s grandmother, Bobbie McCray, said shortly after the shooting a neighbor knocked on her door, which is only a few houses down from the scene of the crime, and told her what happened. She immediately went to the crime scene.
"After the shooting I could see his car was in front on a slant on the Reed driveway," she said. "The way his car was parked, it was like he tried to back out."
Bobbie said she was told by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office that 17 shots were fired into the vehicle and her grandson was struck four times. She said the fatal bullet entered into his back, passed through his lungs, damaged his heart and that he died from asphyxiation due to blood filling up in his lungs.
Reed, who was sitting in the passenger’s side of the vehicle, where Bobbie said the shots entered the car, was uninjured in the shooting.
She said her grandson, who she raised since he was five years old, was not a troublemaker and she thinks the shooters were trying to kill Reed instead.
"I know the guy that was in the car with him," she said. "They say that he was involved in a murder around the corner and it was retaliation."
Reed and Keywine Bradford, 16, were arrested in connection with the May 2012 shooting death of former DHS graduate Jared Mealey a block away on Turtle Creek Lane. Citing lack of evidence in the case, the St. Charles Parish District Attorney’s Office refused charges against Reed and released him from parish custody in late October.
Bradford is still being held for the Mealey murder due to a statement he made to the Sheriff’s Office putting himself at the scene of the crime, but insisting Reed was the shooter.
Michael’s uncle, Darrick McCray, said he was in a movie theater at the time of the shooting.
"Somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, come with me’. When I got outside they told me that my nephew got shot," he said. "I knew he was by the Reed boy so I know Reed was possibly the target."
He said after getting the news he immediately got in his car, sped towards the scene and came upon the ambulance carrying his nephew on I-310. However, Michael was already dead by the time they made it to the hospital.
Darrick said he warned his nephew about being seen in the neighborhood with Reed.
"I told him, ‘Son, right now I know that is your friend and everything, but it is not a good look if you are hanging with him,’" he said.
Shortly after the murder, Darrick began receiving information about the shooting from local residents.
"Everybody is saying the same thing. I’ve already had 50 to 60 people come over and tell me the same names. The names came ringing through that night," he said.
He said that in the first hand accounts relayed to him about the shooting, the attackers didn’t panic following the murder.
"The guys walked - they didn’t run. They walked out right here, jumped over the fence and went on home," he said.
Although eyewitnesses to the crime have come forward to him, as well as those who said they only heard about the shooting plot, Darrick does not know if those same people would be willing to give testimony on the shooting.
"Why would anybody who knows these people, that has seen these people, testify in a case that’s not strong enough?" he said. "Then they put themselves in jeopardy. They are scared, of course they are scared."
On the other hand, he said he has been in contact with those who have been fingered in the shooting and said that they are scared as well.
"One of the suspects is so scared that they say his mom is sleeping with a gun on her side because they think I will retaliate," Darrick said. "I am a community man. I don’t believe in a bullet for a bullet. I believe in justice."
He said retaliation was what got his nephew killed and that it should not have happened.
"Michael basically got caught up," Darrick said. "He was a good kid. I raised him and I’m not going to sit up here and sugarcoat him – if he was bad, then I would say he was bad – but he wasn’t that type of person."
Darrick said he knows that the bullets were not meant for his nephew and that it would not do any good to personally go after those he has been told are responsible for the shooting.
"This has got to stop," he said. "We’ve got to be smarter than this."
Darrick said his relationship with his nephew was more of a fatherly one after his brother, Michael McCray Sr., died from pneumonia when Michael was only five years old. His nephew had recently been working for him as a truck driver and was scheduled to begin a degree program in Culinary Arts at Baton Rouge Community College a few days after the shooting occurred.
Bobbie said her grandson had moved to Baton Rouge in August to enroll at the college, but had missed the enrollment deadline and was working as a short order cook at the Fat Cow restaurant in Baton Rouge in the meantime. She said he was let go from the position when he returned home after his great-grandmother, Juanita Tyler, passed away.
"He just got stuck here. He was down here with the family until it was time to go back," she said. "He had been down here since his great-grandmother died."
Next door neighbor Patricia Watson, a local school bus driver, said Michael grew up with her 17-year-old son.
"Michael spent time at my house when he was little," Watson said. "It’s very devastating. It is very devastating because it’s like my kid is gone and that boy never ever said a bad word."
Watson said in addition to their personal relationship, Michael rode her bus during his last year of school. She said she once took a tour of the St. Charles Parish Public Schools’ Satellite Center, where Michael took a specialized program in culinary arts.
"We went over there for a tour and he had sautéed some shrimp and it was really good. He was in the kitchen and he was whipping it up and you could tell that he enjoyed what he did," Watson said. "He would come on the bus and tell me what he made that day and I would say, ‘Michael, you are just going to get fat because all you talk about is what you cook.’ He said, ‘You know why I like culinary arts? Because I love to eat!’ He was a sweet boy, just a sweet boy."
She said it is disheartening that someone like Michael would be murdered and that it makes her fear for her son’s life.
"These innocent kids are getting killed for what? Michael is not dealing drugs, Michael is going to college. The boy wanted to cook. He was going to culinary school," Watson said. "Why are they killing the kids that are trying to do something with their life? But these other ones on the corner with their pants hanging down slinging dope, nothing is happening to them, but the good kids are getting killed. Who’s next?"
Bobbie said her grandson wanted a simple life and that he expressed his future goals in a text message to his roommate in Baton Rouge.
"Michael had texted him about being a family person. He wanted a family, he wanted a wife, he wanted children. He wanted to be there for his children because his father wasn’t there for him because his father passed away," she said. "It touched me that this guy read this text and he said that every time he read it it is bothering him because he loved Michael so much."
Capt. Pat Yoes, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said they are currently investigating the murder, but no one has yet been arrested for the crime. However, Reed is currently being held for possession of marijuana after admitting to smoking marijuana in the car at the time of the shooting.
Yoes said the Sheriff’s Office is actively investigating leads, including several names provided by the victim’s family.
Anyone who has any information regarding this incident is asked to contact Det. Jody Fahrig with the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office at (985) 783-1135 or (985) 783-6807. They can also contact Crime Stoppers toll free at (877) 903-STOP. Citizens are not required to give their name or testify and could receive up to $2,500 for information leading to an arrest.
In addition to the award offered by Crime Stoppers, Darrick is personally offering a $100,000 reward for the capture and conviction of those responsible for his nephew’s death.