A single report of a child suffering harm via gun violence is jarring alone, but in recent months St. Charles Parish has seen multiple such incidents.
Earlier this month, a 35-year-old man was arrested after a 6-year-old girl was shot in the back in New Sarpy on May 31, allegedly as result of a conflict between two men that escalated. A 24-year-old man was arrested on suspected involvement in the April 15 shooting of his 19-month-old nephew in Luling, the result, police say, of the man firing a gun back inside of his sister’s residence after a confrontation.
While St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne did not comment on any case specifically, he said the results are disturbing and called upon members of the community to keep an eye out and report potentially violent situations when possible, to do so.
“Of course, I am always saddened by any violent incidents, and especially so when a child or innocent bystander is injured or killed,” Champagne said.
“Perpetrators of this violence don’t care about innocent life. These individuals have a complete lack of discipline and anger management … I think I will always have difficulty understanding how some people can in an instant resort to deadly violence over sometimes trivial disputes.”
The sheriff noted concern that the COVID-19 situation over the past year-plus has potentially contributed to heightened anxiety, frustration and ultimately anger within many people. He noted the parish has experienced a general increase in crime over the past year in two areas, theft and domestic violence. He said there has not been an extraordinary increase in violent crime, however, in that time frame.
“Fortunately, this has been tapering off as the COVID era hopefully comes to an end,” Champagne said. “Crime can be very cyclical, but we have not seen any extraordinary increase in violent crime especially involving firearms such as been the case in the major cities. I prefer not to use the term ‘gun violence.’ It’s violence, period. If we can’t even call it what it is, we’ll never solve it, the violence problem.”
Escalating tensions can result in violent conflict, and that’s not limited to domestic or interpersonal one-on-one disputes. In December, Champagne spoke at length about a trend of gunshots being fired in the Luling and Boutte areas, voicing suspicions those were the result of rival gangs attempting to intimidate one another. At the time, he said it was inevitable someone would get hurt were things to continue down that path.
He expanded on that this week, noting police have become aware of an ongoing feud between certain family groups and gangs from St. Charles, St. John and St. James parishes.
“One incident leads to retaliation and that retaliation leads to more retaliation,” said Champagne. “We have been working with the sheriffs in those parishes to gather intelligence and increase patrols in the areas we believe these incidents are likely to occur. We have had some success recently. What we also need is for more people to provide us with info on what they are hearing in regards to potential violence.”
On that last point, he reiterated that residents have stepped up to report information and ultimately play key roles in punishing offenders and preventing potential crimes, but he implores local citizens to step up those efforts further, as a collective group, when possible – as it could make a world of difference for someone.
“We do have citizens who report potential problems to us, but it’s not enough,” Champagne said. “We certainly understand the fear of retaliation by residents of certain criminals with reputations for violence. We have the availability various methods for people providing us anonymous tips. Crimestoppers is the best and easiest way to get information to us completely anonymously. I urge people to call. They just might save a life.”