“Never in my memory that I can tell you that we’ve had that much gun violence. We’re dealing with a different generation, a different young people.”
It’s scary time in Opelousas with violent incidents not seen in the 28-years that Opelousas Police Chief Martin McClendon has been in law enforcement.
Five shootings since almost midnight Friday, with three of them-on Oak; Redmond and Lincoln; and the Lincoln alone--believed to be related.
Monday morning at 3 a.m came the fifth shooting on Statesman as a 17-year old boy was struck four times; even scarier was this: the shooter or shooters fired 26 times into his family’s home.
“We were in bed I heard gunshots. I heard 'mama’,” recalls Karen Thibodeaux, the victim’s mother. After hearing her son’s cry, she then walked to her son’s room. “His leg was full of blood, and he was on the floor. I thought, ‘Oh, my God’.”
“They clearly have nothing to do with any related crimes,” says McClendon. “This is a good young man that was sleeping in his home, was fired upon and hit four times. Thank God he was able to walk away from the hospital this morning.” McClendon adds that the victim was actually sleeping in his sister’s bed who was not home that evening. “It could have been her instead.”
Thibodeaux says things in Opelousas are spiraling out of control. “They shot at my house, but why? We don’t do anything to anyone. Why would they shoot my house, my car? Why would they shoot at my family?”
It has been an extremely troublesome time in Opelousas, not just over the week but since the start of July, with 31 reports of gun-related violence. And although some might be reports of the same incident, Chief McClendon says there’s a crisis out there, and his department needs your help.
“Our message is: if you see something, you’ve got to say something.”
McClendon tells us the shootings don’t seem to be related to drugs, but rather to territory, which pits “… one end of the city against the other.” In addition, these younger criminals are smarter and scarier. “You have kids that are doing these shootings, and they actually are staying there long enough to clean up the crime scenes They’re picking up their spent shell casings, and they’re trying to make the crime scene completely clean so when we arrive, there’s nothing to go on.”
You can help, says Chief McClendon; in fact, he adds that residents have to help. “We have 43 officers on the force, with 41 of those officers out there right now, and they can only do so much. Help from the community-- that’s the only way we are going to solve these shootings and, in the long run, create a safer Opelousas.”
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