LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - The drive by shooting of Alexus Rankins a year ago has raised new concerns about gang activity in the Lake Area. While it may not be anything like a major city it's still a concern to those who prosecuted Rankins' killer.
At the corner near the mall, where Rankins was gunned down a year and two months ago, it's quiet and neighbors say the big groups that used to migrate to and from the mall seems go have subsided, especially now that fencing prevents access to the parking lot after business hours. Yet during the trial of Rankins' killer there was testimony suggesting two groups of young people there before the deadly shooting may have been members of rival gangs-- some with Folk Nation; others with Five Deuce Hoovers.
Following the guilty verdicts prosecutors Cynthia Killingsworth and DA John DeRosier spoke of the gang problem in the Lake area. Said Killingsworth, "Gang violence is a problem in Lake Charles. It's more of a problem than a lot of people realize. It is not a big a problem as it is in the bigger cities, obviously. But our law enforcement agencies here have worked really, really hard to try to contain it and stop it before it gets big here."
DeRosier said, "We have young wanna be gang members that are basically organized by community and schools and misbehave and when you let that misbehavior go unchecked, and by that I'm referring to parents, you see what happens here. A fight escalates and all of a sudden somebody's dead."
DeRosier says as Sean Newton was on trial for the murder of Alexus Rankins yet another killing happened that DeRosier says was very similar, "The murder of Leonard Lambert Tuesday morning. We saw a basic repeat performance of this kind of young, gang violence. We saw it a year ago with young Alexus Rankins. Her family will live with that forever. And now we see it again here in Lake Charles."
DeRosier says parents need to be alert to any bad connections their children may be making. "We cannot allow our children to roam around with these little neighborhood gangs and cause problems like this because eventually somebody's going to end up dead every time."
In the trial those who testified about alleged gangs were clearly hesitant. But in light of repeated violence purported gang involvement will likely get even more scrutiny in the future.
Sean Newton was convicted of first degree murder and other charges: inciting a riot and obstruction of justice. His brother, mother and father were all convicted of accessory after the fact to first degree murder and other charges. They'll be sentenced at 9 a.m. July 20th.