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Opelousas Community Again Addresses Gun Violence

Editor and Contributing Writer

Photograph: Persons prepare to end the rally for National Gun Violence Awareness Day with a balloon release (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)

Orange balloons released and floating lazily into a Friday evening sky will do little to mitigate the surge of gun violence that enveloped the Opelousas streets last week.

That symbolic gesture, while inherently benign, acknowledged the overall message expressed by those attempting to attach a citywide message to National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

However if there is a workable solution for the shots fired issue city police have attempted to curtail over the last several years, Police Chief Martin McLendon thinks he has an answer.

“Our police department is being proactive, but it’s up to the neighbors in the areas where the shootings are happening to do their part,” McLendon said before the start of a Stop The Violence rally held in the center of the Oil Mill-area housing project.

McClendon admitted he and his officers have been busy examining the numerous spent rounds from weapons fired over the last six days and hunting for the perpetrators linked to guns. 

City detectives are still investigating a homicide on Ina Claire Drive, another shooting on the north side of Opelousas, followed by a subsequent shooting incident on Thursday, which wounded a 16-year-old girl, resulting in an arrest, according to police reports submitted to St. Landry Now.

The event Friday night hosted by Delita Rubin Broussard, was the third community effort held during the past 10 days that addressed the Opelousas gunfire problem.

“Gun violence (in Opelousas) and everywhere else has become a pandemic. People are ducking and dodging. You shouldn’t have to run and hide when you go to the grocery store,” said Broussard.

Some arrived at the rally wearing orange shirts, signifying the official color adopted to note sensitivity to gun violence.

“I wanted to have this rally in order to bring awareness to gun violence and coordinate that with National Gun Violence Awareness, which is on the first Friday in June,” Broussard added.

Broussard said many city residents remain unnerved about the gunshots they are often hearing inside their neighborhoods.

“It’s scary. People are depressed, not knowing when the next round of violence is happening. The problem starts at home. These young people need to know there are consequences,” said Broussard.

Mayor Julius Alsandor issued a proclamation saluting National Gun Violence Awareness Day and told the 62 people who had assembled that they needed to let the messages they heard “resonate throughout the community.”

Elected officials and others who spoke at the event stressed the need for a unified community effort to defeat the amount of guns McLendon and his officers are finding in the hands of adolescents.

“There is so much to be done and nobody knows how to do it,” said former St. Landry Parish District Attorney Charles Cravins.

Cravins added that it’s a tragic narrative that indicates some young people are not living long enough to ascertain the consequences of their actions.

McLendon said the gun control effort within the city is pervasive.

“We have been successful in taking guns off the streets, but where we find one, there are 10 we find somewhere else,” said McLendon.

McLendon said his department is being assisted by officers from several other municipalities, who are targeting what he described as “hotspots” for shootings in Opelousas.

The onset of summer means there is a flourish of social media activity among young people. That is one reason for the spike in violence during the past six days, McLendon said.

“These people are moving around, feuding with one another on these sites,” McLendon added.

McLendon emphasized there is a city police website and call-in designed to accept anonymous tips from people that he said, “know something, but might be afraid to give out their names.”

Perhaps the best clarity for a town concerned with violence was provided by a young boy who spoke to the gathering of adults.

“People need to stop all the violence and make the community do better. If one person does better the other person will do better,” he said.

A rapper known as 2Clean speaks at the rally. (Photograph by Freddie Herpin.)