DONALDSONVILLE — Two men were gunned down Monday and killed on Latino Street less than two hours before a community group intent on stemming a recent tide of violence prayed in the city’s downtown square for the Lord’s aid in their mission.
Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tony Bacala said Chad Michael Nichols, 37, was slain in his front yard at 178 Latino St., and a second man, 29-year-old Benny Booker, 54054 Spellman Wall Road, Prairieville, was wounded with serious injuries and taken to a hospital but later died.
Witnesses told deputies that two white cars were seen speeding away from the mobile home shortly after the shooting at 3:31 p.m., Bacala said.
The assailants fled in Booker’s 2007 white Dodge Magnum, bearing Louisiana license plate YPC 682, Bacala said late Money. Surveillance video captured the Dodge speeding through Donaldsonville following another vehicle also believed to be involved in the homicide. The second vehicle appears to be a 2008-2011 white BMW 3 series vehicle, Bacala said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the Sheriff’s Office at (225) 621-INFO (4636) or texting 847411 to the anonymous tip line from any cellular device or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-STOP (7867).
While sheriff’s investigators tried to catch the killers and assess the crime scene Monday, area politicians, high school students and members of the Answering the Call group gathered at Louisiana Square holding candles in dimming evening light. They prayed for Donaldsonville’s youth, for strength to see through a change in Ascension’s west bank city, for a way to keep its sons and daughters on the path of righteousness.
“We thank you, Lord God, even in the midst of the tragedy, Lord God, even that which the enemy meant for evil, Lord God, we are believing that, God, that you are going to work it out for good and for glory,” City Councilman the Rev. Charles Brown intoned.
The shootings of Nichols and Booker bring to four the number of people shot in Donaldsonville in the last week. The other two, a sheriff’s deputy and a teenager, survived their separate shooting injuries.
“That’s not typical of Donaldsonville,” Bacala said, “but at the same time, you worry about these things.”
Watching a few houses away Monday afternoon, Myra Gros, 54, of Donaldsonville, stood in disbelief and in tears as her son lay in his front yard and investigators stood outside his mobile home. She wondered aloud what has been happening in Donaldsonville as she embraced family and friends.
“I can’t believe this,” Gros said as she moaned in sorrow.
Officers had Latino Street blocked off with police tape as neighbors looked on and traffic was jammed.
In a moment of calm, Gros said her son had a pressure-washing business and worked with the second victim, whom she did not know.
She said she did not know who would want to kill her son, who she described as a “happy go-lucky kid.”
“I thought everybody liked him,” she said.
She said her son had one teenage child.
Tamiko Francis Garrison, whose Answering the Call group organized the prayer rally in Louisiana Square before the shooting, said the shooting’s occurrence less than two hours before the rally only points out the need in Donaldsonville for similar efforts to address crime.
“So, we’re going to do all we can to at least save as many lives as we can,” Garrison said.
One of the rally’s attendees, Harry Joseph, 35, of Donaldsonville, said he is a youth minister who tries to reach young people on the streets and had himself overcome a past of crime.
He said that while he believes crime is being brought to Donaldsonville from those who are not from the city, he said ministers and others need to reach out to the city’s young people.
Asked what it would take to enact a real change, Joseph said, “A lot of this. A lot of this,” as gospel music blared from the square after the prayer rally had just finished.
“Get out and be active with the people. Like I say, be active, a lot of action and be consistent. You can’t do it one day and stop.”
Back at the scene of the shooting, a friend of Nichols’ was pained at his violent death, yet another in Donaldsonville for a reason unknown at this time but with an impact all-too-familiar.
“It’s a hurting feeling,” said Eric Jackson, 28, who said he has known Nichols since he was a boy.
Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter @NewsieDave.