No Thanks but Lemme Ask My Roommate

I was alarmed to see this report because the location is not far from our house, but the details are kind of interesting.

Armed Robbery, 3900 Block of Banks Street

On February 21, 2011 at approximately 10:15 AM, First District Officers responded to an armed robbery in the 3900 Block of Banks Street. The victim reported an unknown black female wearing a purple shirt and blue jeans knocked on the back door to the residence and asked the subject if he wanted to have sex for money. The subject told her no but stated he would ask his roommate who was asleep.

The subject woke the victim and went back into the kitchen. The witness stated when he came back into the room, the black female had a small black revolver in her hand and the victim’s wallet. The subject stated the female left the residence with the wallet.

A spanish speaking officer arrived on scene and spoke with the victim. The victim relayed the same information received from the subject # 1 including his wallet had been sitting on a small table near the door at the time the female grabbed it.

A neighbor stated the female left in a blue minivan, possibly a Dodge. Both the witness and victim stated they had not seen this female before. The victim stated he had approximately $600 in his wallet.

Sent by Officer Melody Young -1st District NOPD.

As I read this a second time, I kind’ve gotta wonder if the subject #1 or the victim can be trusted in this case. It kind of reminds me of an incident at our old homestead.

What Happened to That Boy?

Note: The title’s a lyrical reference to a New Orleans hip-hop track, and of course there’s a (NSFW) mix if you want some musical accompaniment to what follows.

It is rare for me to remove a post from my blog but it has happened a few times over the years. The most recent case involves something I posted on Wednesday, February 7th, 2007. I am reproducing that post below along with the comments that it attracted. The reprint is verbatim identical to the original with one important exception: I’ve removed the name of the young man in question, and replaced his name with his initials. The old post had become the number one search result for this man’s name. If you read it all, you’ll see why I removed it from its original location. I’ll include a further comment of my own at the end.
Continue reading What Happened to That Boy?

Close Encounter

I had just dropped Xy & Persephone off at the house of some friends and run a few errands. I stopped back at the house to take care of a few things. I was surprised to find a cop car parked in the middle of the street and an officer standing nearby.

I parked my car, a little further from the house than usual because the cop was blocking the way. As I walked past, I asked, “You looking for someone?” He replied in the affirmative and waved me on.

I went inside and checked my e-mail. Read a few, sent a few. I was feeling like lying down in bed and having a good cry, finding the revelations of the past few days somewhat overwhelming, but first I decided to go out back and take care of a chore, namely bagging up some old screen frames with peeling paint.

I opened the back door and started to step outside when I saw something that made me freeze in my tracks.

It was somebody’s shoulder, in a black tee shirt.

That was all I saw, but it was enough. I retreated into the house and locked the door and went back upstairs. By the time I got to the front of the house to confirm the cops were no longer there (they weren’t) I had already dialed 911.

Soon the cops were back. I was sitting on the front steps. The cops had their guns drawn. I told them where the guy was. Peeking around the corner I could see he was still there. He must have either jumped our gate or climbed over the neighbor’s fence.

Our gate was locked, with the key inside the house. I explained that to one of the cops, and he asked, “Could you expedite that, please?” So I got the key and unlocked the gate and the cops went through.

Next thing they’ve got the guy with his hands in the air, and then in cuffs.

I kept my distance, not particularly interested in letting this guy see me, but that meant I couldn’t see him too well either. He was a black male with a fauxhawk haircut, wearing a black tee shirt that said “Bienville” on the back. When I described him to Debra later she said, “Oh yeah, he’s one of the guys who hangs around on the corner, meaning Bienville and Gayoso, I think.

When I asked one of the cops what it was all about, I was told, “He beat somebody up.” And since he trespassed on my property, would I be interested in pressing charges? I said I didn’t think so.

After that I went over to our friends’ house and had a good stiff drink.

Perhaps it is time to move.

Sex Offender Notification

We got a Sex Offender Notification in the mail, about a guy who’s living six or so blocks away. The card lists the following offense: “03/27/1995 14:81 2-Molestation of Juvenile.” There’s a mugshot, as well as his name, sex, hair and eye color, race, height, weight, age, and of course his address. It’s also got his nickname: Merkey.

We got one of these years ago and it really creeped me out in two different ways. There’s the unsettling factor of contemplating a neighbor’s alleged crime. And then there’s the weird Orwellian factor of the notification itself. I’m not sure which disturbs me more.

1995. That’s fourteen years ago. Did he go to jail? For how long? And what exactly was he alleged to have done, anyway? Molestation of a juvenile… If this is to have any value beyond titillation and fear-mongering, I need more details. If he raped an infant girl, for example, I’m going to regard his presence quite differently than if he had consensual sex with a teenage boy.

Good Morning

Woke up to the sound of screaming. Actually I was already half-awake — I slept sitting up last night cradling the girl to help with her congestion. But the screaming got my attention. Xy had just gone out the door to catch her car pool ride to work. That wasn’t her voice I was hearing — I didn’t think. I extricated myself from the girl, taking care she wouldn’t roll off the bed. Sure enough, Xy and some neighbors were gathered in front of the house across the street, the Big Red Barn as I call it. Xy told me to call 911, and I did. She said there was a fight in the lower right apartment, and she went alongside the building and threw some junk at the window. She said a guy was choking a woman. There was a lot of chaos with people coming and going. I wasn’t dressed so I stayed inside and kept an eye on the girl. Xy’s car pool picked her up. The cops came about 15 minutes after my call, but by then all was quiet. They knocked on the door, got no answer, then got back in the car. By the time I pulled on some pants and shoes they were gone.

Xy called from school with her theory of what went down. Her imagination can run wild at times, but this seems plausible. The Latino guys across the street hired a pair of prostitutes. One woman was black, the other white. There was a dispute about money, and that’s why the guy was fighting with the black woman and she was screaming. The white woman left her there. The black woman departed shortly thereafter, with or without the money in question. This apparently all happened before Xy even left, because she told them, “Don’t ever come back here, I’ve got your license number.”

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

Dangerously Cheesy

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st District Crime Activity Report for August 2nd-8th, 2008, reproduced verbatim and without editorial comment:

Location: 400 Blk. N. Johnson St.

Date/Time: Aug. 2,2008

Type: Auto Burglary

Gist: The victim parked and secured her vehicle on 8-02-08 at 7;00pm, only to return at 12;30pm on 8-03-08 and discover the rear window of her Black Dodge Caliber broken and ransacked. Upon takin a brief inventory of the vehicle, the victim could only find missing was a bag of Cheetoos.

Description: No witnesses were found, the incident is being investigated


A friend of mine posted the following on our neighborhood discussion group:

I was working at my other house I am renovating tonight around 8:50 pm. Rendon/Conti St. Heard four/five shots fired. Looked out the back door as the shooter sped off. Shortly after I heard the cries across the street and realized someone was shot. It seems a baby was shot in the arm instead of whoever they meant to shoot. That puts me within 200′ of two drive by’s within two nights. Real scary. I heard they know who did it so I guess that means at least another drive by the next couple of nights. Street justice they call it. What a shame.

This happened about three blocks from us.

315-17 N Rendon

Here’s the story from the Times-Picayune:

2-year-old girl shot in Mid-City

By Leslie Williams, The Times-Picayune
Thursday August 07, 2008, 10:29 PM

A 2-year old girl was shot in the arm shortly before 9 p.m. in Mid-City, according to police and neighbors.

She was taken to a local hospital, said Officer Shereese Harper, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Police Department. Her condition was not immediately available.

The shooting occurred at 315 N. Rendon St., a pink double not far from the intersection of Bienville and N. Rendon streets, police said.

“I heard about four or five shots,” said a neighbor, who asked not to be identified. “When I came outside, I saw a two-door silver car speed by.”

The neighbor said he later pointed out two cartridges on the asphalt in the 300 block of North Rendon to police who arrived at the scene.

A woman started crying and yelling once she realized the child was injured, neighbors said.

Harper said police are trying to determine the motive for the shooting and identify suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers, which is offering a reward of as much as $2,500 for information leading to an arrest and indictment in the case. The telephone number is 504.822.1111 or toll-free at 1.877.903.7867.

Leslie Williams can be reached at [email protected] or 504.826.3358.

Stuff like this scares me.
Continue reading Drive-By

Around the Corner

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st District Crime Activity Report for July 24, 2008, reproduced verbatim and without editorial comment:

Type: Aggravated Assault

Location: 3100 block of Bienville

Gist: At 6:30pm, the victim had a verbal confrontation with her live in boyfriend over the one month old baby not being his son. After being informed by the victim that he had to leave the residence, the boyfriend then relocated to the bedroom where they slept and retrieved a small black revolver that was under a mattress and brandished the weapon at her and informed her that he would kill her. He then departed the location.

Description: Wanted: Justin Johnson; black male; 08-08-1986; 11435 Will Stutley Dr.

Puppy Theft

Here’s an excerpt from the 1st District Crime Activity Report for July 20, 2008, reproduced verbatim and without editorial comment:

Type: Theft

Location: Dumaine and North Rocheblave

Gist: The victim stated that at 6:15pm, she received a response to an ad that she had in the newspaper for a puppy. The victim met an unknown black male in the 900 block of North Rocheblave. She let him hold the puppy and then he fled with puppy eastbound on North Rocheblave.

Description: Unknown black male; 5’6”; 125lbs; white shirt and blue jeans

Shots Verified

OK, so those were gunshots I heard Thursday morning. I got the direction wrong, though. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the 1st District Crime Activity Report for June 26, 2008, reproduced verbatim and without editorial comment:

Type: Automobile Burglary

Location: 3200 block of Bienville

Gist: At 2:225am, the victim was awakened by loud noises outside the residence. Upon looking out, he observed two unknown black males near his vehicle and the vehicle’s trunk was open and one of the subject was searching the interior and the other held a handgun. The victim armed his self and relocated outside and fired his weapon and the subjects fled but had taken the speaker’s out of the vehicle and left them on the ground. The victim then fired several more rounds at the subjects. The victim was advised that it was illegal to discharge a firearm when his life was not in immediate danger and was issued a summons

Shots Fired

I heard gunfire early this morning, about 2:30 AM. A dozen shots. It sounded like it was coming from around the corner, the 3100 block of Iberville.

I wish I could say it was the first time I’ve ever heard such sounds in the night in our neighborhood. Unfortunately it’s a sound I hear far too often. But this was a little different than the usual. It was so close and so loud that it woke me up.

So I dialed 911 and reported it. I think I’ve only ever called 911 once before in my life. They took the information and said they’d send someone out. They did not request my name or address, for which I was thankful. I just wanted to go back to sleep.

I almost called Gwen, the neighbor we know who lives right in the middle of that block. She’s still in a trailer on the sidewalk; she must surely have been woken up by those shots. Maybe I should have called her. But I went back to sleep instead.

One Year Later

A year ago I gave a speech.

Sadly enough, I could give that speech again today. Not much has changed.

I would have to strike the reference to District Attorney Eddie Jordan — he’s gone. I would lose the line calling for more cops. But other than that, I stand by what I said a year ago, and I’d say it again.

Not much has changed. But really, I didn’t expect much would in just a year. We need deep and lasting change, and that won’t happen quickly.

If you think a march and a rally and some speeches could change a city overnight, or even over twelve months — well, that would be very naïve.

We didn’t march because we nourished some fantasy of sudden transformation. We marched because we were angry and afraid and ashamed. We marched out of an anguish we couldn’t bear alone, so we had to come together for a communal outpouring.

Not much has changed. But there have been some slender shreds of progress.

A year ago, I went to City Hall with thousands of fellow New Orleanians. Today, I went there with a few dozen.

It was one of those New Orleans days where it’s warm in the sunlight but bone-chilling cold in the shade, and City Hall casts a might big shadow.

I didn’t speak. I was a spectator. I watched and listened as Silence Is Violence held a press conference.

Press Conference

They read the names of all the people who have been murdered since January 11, 2007. Different people took turns reading. Everybody read the name of the victim (if known) and their age (if known). Some people read the method of murder too: “John Doe, 25, shot.”

Almost all the victims had been shot.

Jake Speaks

Then Nakita Shavers spoke, and Baty Landis, and Jake Hill, and Ken Foster. All the speakers were interesting, but Baty’s remarks got at the burning question: What progress has been made?

As I said, not much, but Baty highlighted the bright spots while acknowledging the challenges. She was polite and circumspect. She cited a number of public officials who had earned some respect by listening to the concerns of citizens.

Nagin was notable by his absence, both from the press conference and from Baty’s remarks. I heard from Leigh that he was giving a talk about sidewalk repair in the Quarter.

Afterward a guy with a sign that said TRUST JESUS started ranting/preaching while they were continued to read off the 200+ names of murder victims. It was quite disruptive and disrespectful and it just made me want to leave, so I did. As I got on my bike I looked back and saw Jake and some other guy had gotten the TRUST JESUS dude to quiet down. Good for them.

I rode home and painted some baseboards and trim.

48 Hours

48 Hours Mystery will be running a show this weekend about Helen Hill and Dinerral Shavers and the general topic of violence in New Orleans.

I spoke to the producers a couple of times. One producer told me he was disappointed by the seeming resignation of most of the people they’d interviewed. He was hoping I might bring the rage. I must not have sounded angry enough, though, because in the end they never interviewed me.

Here’s their press release:
Continue reading 48 Hours


There will be a segment about Helen Hill‘s unsolved murder case on America’s Most Wanted tomorrow night. I believe they’ll be using some video I shot of her jazz funeral.

Also, Helen’s brother, Jake Hill, is in New Orleans to hold a meeting and press conference at the Sound Café (2700 Chartres) this afternoon (Sept. 14th, 2:00pm). He will announce an increase in the Crime Stoppers reward related to the case. I understand he will be distributing informational packets and asking for volunteers to help put up reward posters. Please come by.

Note that if you’re in San Francisco or Ottawa you have a chance to see Helen’s animated films at local festivals.

Helen will not be forgotten. I wonder how she’d feel about all this attention? Probably slightly embarrassed. I’m sure she’d rather we focused our energies on solving broad societal problems rather than solving the mystery of her murder. I don’t have much hope that we’ll ever know what really happened. Still, I know that solving that mystery is important for her family, her friends (including me) and the community.

Update: I attended the press conference. The reward for information on Helen’s murder is now $15,000. Drawing forth an informer is surely the only chance of any progress in the investigation.

I took some pictures:

The Media



I also split a grilled cheese sandwich with Antoinette K-Doe. Thanks, Antoinette. Talking to you really lifted my spirits.

Update: The piece on America’s Most Wanted didn’t use my footage of Helen’s jazz funeral after all. But they did make prominent use of a snippet from the vegan lunch segment of ROX #90. The highly pixelated image made it clear they’d snagged the video from the web. As for the segment, it really got me choked up, especially hearing Dave Cash performing the song he wrote in Helen’s honor. But for some reason they didn’t even mention the reward.

Update: Another (very moving) story of the press conference and a picture of the flyer at Humid City.

Update: Download the flyer from CrimeStoppers. Print and post in your neighborhood.

Preliminary Findings

One of the most interesting things I got out of the Green Party of Louisiana convention on Saturday was a press release distributed by the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. Strangely enough I can’t find this information on their website nor on the website for the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, so I thought I’d reproduce it here. It’s powerful, provocative stuff.

International Tribunal Issues Preliminary Findings
Bush, Blanco, Nagin Committed Crimes against Humanity

New Orleans—Between August 29, 2007 and September 2, 2007, a Tribunal of 16 esteemed jurists from nine countries, including Algeria, Brazil, France, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mexico, South Africa, Venezuela, and the United States, convened in New Orleans to hear testimony by experts and survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

After hearing nearly 30 hours of testimony by hurricane survivors and experts – covering government neglect and negligence in 15 areas, ranging from police brutality to environmental racism, from misappropriation of relief to gentrification, the jurists announced their preliminary findings.

Jill Soffiyah Elijah, the Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard Law School and Coordinating Justice for the International Tribunal on Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, announced the Tribunal’s preliminary findings, “It is our view that the US Government has committed crimes against humanity particularly in relation to its failure to maintain functional levees that should have protected the City of New Orleans from flooding…. It was the reckless disregard and, in some instances, negligence of the US government, the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans that created the devastation we continue to see today.”

Elijah also announced that the Tribunal made preliminary findings that the federal, state and local governments are guilty of violating the human rights to life, dignity and recognition of personhood; the right to be free from racial discrimination — especially as it pertains to the actions of law enforcement personnel and vigilantes; the right to return, resettlement and reintegration of internally displaced persons; the right to be free from degrading treatment and punishment; the right to freedom of movement; the right to adequate housing and education; the right to vote and participate in governance and the right to a fair trial, the right to liberty and security of person and the right to equal protection under the law. Both actions and failure to act by the governments had disproportionate devastating impact with respect to race and gender.

The jurists announced that they would deliver their final verdict December 8, 2007—the second anniversary of the Katrina Survivors’ Assembly. In the meantime, prosecutors will be submitting additional evidence and videotaped affidavits from an additional 25 survivors.

The prosecution team included experienced attorneys from respected legal associations around the country: the ACLU of New York, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, the US Human Rights Network, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mississippi Workers Center for Human Rights, Washington DC Legal Defender, Mississippi Disaster Relief Coalition, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Legal Empowerment Center and the Louisiana Justice Initiative.

The Tribunal Conveners — representing movements for justice on four continents — reminded Tribunal participants and witnesses of the solemnity of their task. Lybon Mabasa, a founding member with Stephen Biko of the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa, insisted, “We must hold these criminal governments to account in order to stop the world from sinking into barbarism and to make the world one where life is worth living.”

I’m sure this will rub some people the wrong way. But before you go flying off the handle, consider: Can you refute any of the above?

Murder Map

I’ve been fiddling around with the new crime-mapping feature. It’s pretty interesting stuff. You can put in an address and see all the crime reports for the vicinity. You can specify the radius and the time frame and filter by different types of crime.

So, for example, I was able to learn that so far this year there have been ten or eleven murders committed within one mile of our house — walking distance, more or less.


click map to enlarge

The site says eleven, but I think it’s ten, because Anthony Placide’s murder seems to be listed twice.

There have also been 51 assaults, 114 auto thefts, 217 burglaries, 46 robberies and 259 thefts — for a grand total of 698 incidents so far this year.

Mind you, these are only the incidents for which NOPD has actually filed a report. The actual numbers are undoubtedly higher.

For an excellent, thoughtful analysis of what NOPD’s new crime mapping means, please read Brian Denzer’s new essay on Digital Democracy.

Update: Strangely enough, when I checked the map again today (Aug. 20) there are now only nine murders listed in this radius from the beginning of the year.

Another Failed Prosecution

Remember that retired teacher who got beat up on Bourbon Street shortly after Katrina? Sure you do, it was on television all over the world, a blatant example of police brutality and a huge embarrassment to the city of New Orleans.

Well, the latest news is that the accused officer was acquitted.

Some will say that Judge Frank Marullo has a pro-police bias. But I note the following from a Crouere’s Corner:

In the past, Marullo had legendary conflicts with former District Attorney Harry Connick and some believed that he was one of the more liberal judges on the criminal court bench.

And I’m sure some will say Marullo is dirty — nothing would surprise me.

But I am left to wonder about the prosecutor. This seems like such an easy case. It seems like another example of a botched prosecution.

We already know that District Attorney’s office can’t handle the job. Some of Eddie Jordan’s defenders have stuck by him out of a false hope that he’s going to clean up the police department. Unfortunately, he can’t, and this acquittal is further evidence of that. He’ll blow the Danziger case too. Mark my words.

Anyway you slice it, this is an ugly case. The other officer involved, who was also being prosecuted, killed himself last month.

And as for Stewart Smith, the third cop, who tried to stop the Associated Press from videotaping the incident? Charges against him were dismissed because the D.A. missed the deadline.

Crime Prevention

I’ve been thinking a lot about crime and violence lately, because it’s clear that it’s coming back to New Orleans. This point was made in dramatic fashion Saturday morning, when five teenage boys were murdered. The story is making international news but it’s indicative of a problem that’s been plaguing urban America for decades. It’s in all our cities, but in New Orleans it has been just about the worst.

Sometimes a mugging will get violent, and that’s always big news here, but the vast majority of our violent crimes are related to the drug trade, and were so frequent pre-Katrina that they often didn’t make the front page.

When I mention “drug trade” it might conjure images of deranged addicts, so let me be clear: These slayings are about drug money and drug “turf” and the blood feuds that arise from these issues.

If you live in the inner city, this is an undeniable truth: The black market for drugs is lucrative, violent and unstoppable — and attractive to disadvantaged youth.

I know in my heart that the vast majority of violent crime would go away if we got rid of the black market in drugs. Anyone who lives in New Orleans could tell you that.

People have always done drugs and prohibition doesn’t work. The only way to end this reign of terror is to legalize drugs and destroy the black market.

But we can’t do that, because it’s a matter of federal law. People outside of the inner cities tend to have a different perspective on the drug trade. I’m afraid racism raises its ugly head here: Too many suburbanites regard violence as the curse of racial and ethnic minorities. It’s something that happens to “those people” in the inner city, and it’s tragic, but that’s their lot in life.

If we legalized drugs, I do believe drug abuse would escalate somewhat, for a while. But I also believe violent crime would plummet. In the long term, relatively benign “soft” drugs would become more popular than the more harmful “hard” drugs which are so lucrative for criminals now. Ultimately, society would be better off.

I never could have understood this so clearly if I hadn’t moved to the inner city. The rest of the country, non-urban America, will never let us end prohibition. They certainly don’t want their sons and daughters having easier access to illicit drugs.

So what can we do to end this madness?

Hammer Time

Last night we heard someone hammering nearby just around twilight, or maybe later. Xy remarked on it. I didn’t pay much attention.

But this afternoon a (former) neighbor stopped by. It was Gwen, sister of dear departed Dan. She informed us that the hammering was actually a brazen burglary of their house. They forced their way in through brute force, destroyed much of their surviving furniture, trashed the place, and stole everything including her underwear.

Gwen’s living in a hotel downtown but plans to return once she gets a trailer. Then she’s going to walk her pit bulls around the block every evening.


Our neighbor Geraldine’s car was stolen last night — again.

She suspects the people in the blue house two over from us. Everybody says they’re drug dealers, and Geraldine says she’s about ready to call the police on them, “selling drugs right out of the house like that.”

Last time Geraldine’s car was stolen, Xy found it a few days later, just around the corner. So she and Crystal have gone for a drive around the neighborhood to see if they can find it again.