District Attorney: Community needs to come together to address - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

District Attorney: Community needs to come together to address teen violence

(Source: Raycom) (Source: Raycom)

There is a shocking trend in the Lake Area—deadly violence with teens among those arrested.

In fact, we've seen two cases in just over a week. First, on July 17, gunfire on North Simmons Street in Lake Charles left  31-year-old Gary Obrien dead.       Four people face charges in connection with the case, including 16-year-old Justin Ned. He's booked on charges of principal to first-degree murder and armed robbery.

And this past Saturday, 24-year old Joshua Touchet died after a shooting at an RV park on Broad Street in Lake Charles. Police arrested three people booked on charges of first-degree murder and armed robbery.  One suspect is just 14 years old.

Formal charges will likely be decided after the cases are presented to the Calcasieu grand jury.  And those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Still, the increase in teens involved in or connected to violent crime has the attention of Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier.

He held a meeting about that very issue just Monday. Right now there are 71 teens in the Calcasieu jail,  22 of whom are there for violent crime.

DeRosier says the whole community is needed to tackle the problem:

Of the 71 teens in the Calcasieu jail, the youngest when arrested is Stacy Johnson junior-- 16 when indicted on a murder charge.

Why so many teens are being caught up in violent crime and what to do is a multifaceted problem.

DeRosier called together some 15 community leaders to discuss.

"What we are finding here in Calcasieu Parish is that we are having more juveniles involved in violent crimes and most of those are coming from the minority community. "We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this problem," he said.

One leader involved is Reverend Samuel  Tolbert, pastor of Greater St. Mary Baptist Church.  to start-- he says it has to do with how some teens see life:

"Life is not as valuable in their minds and I think we need to do something to help them understand the value of life," said Tolbert.

Hear more from the Rev. Sam Tolbert and District Attorney John DeRosier:

WEB EXTRA VIDEO: Rev. Sam Tolbert

WEB EXTRA VIDEO: District Attorney John DeRosier

Tolbert, whose mother was a single parent, says men need to be involved especially in homes with no male figure.

"The absenteeism of men in homes has made a difference in the way I believe our children are coming out, what we're producing, What do we need to do to reach these young people," he said.

Part of the effort will likely include 100 Black Men, a mentoring group in Calcasieu Parish.

"Yesterday a number of members of that organization met in this office to discuss reconstituting the organization and getting it back on track," he said.

DeRosier says there will also be a larger meeting soon he hopes will include much more.

"We need to pull in everybody.  We need simply concerned citizens, we need the family members.  Probably most importantly, we need some of these young people themselves to have accountability for their actions and to realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel other than violent crime," he said.

DeRosier says it needs to include a discussion of racial issues and Tolbert agrees.

"We're not going to solve a problem of killings in the black community without involving leaders from all over this city black and white, north and south, east and west.  We need all of us to come together because what affects one section of the city will eventually affect the whole city," he said.

So often, the violence brings heartbreak not just for those grieving a death, but others grieving lives lost to prison. And those dealing with it daily know there's no time to waste.

Besides teens in adult jail, our numbers don't reflect those at Calcasieu Juvenile Detention Center.  Court matters of juveniles are generally confidential.

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