DARROW — Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley decried a brazen daylight slaying Thursday that he says is part of a culture of violence that seemingly has become immune to the threat of incarceration.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested four men early Friday on second-degree murder and other counts in what Wiley described as an orchestrated, retaliatory shoot-out during which nearly 50 shots were fired across the street from Hopeful Baptist Church.
At the time, Deacon Mike Claiborne said, Bible study was underway with a few parishioners at the church along a rural section of La. 22.
“I thought it was firecrackers,” Claiborne said.
Each of the men has been given bail of $1 million or more, and they remained in Ascension Parish Detention Center near Donaldsonville on Friday evening.
Wiley said the men, whom he described as people with long criminal records who are well known to law enforcement, pulled up in a gold Porsche sport utility vehicle on La. 22 about 6:27 p.m. Thursday.
Carrying weapons with large clips, Wiley said, they walked across the highway. An argument began with another group of men hanging out across La. 22 in a driveway off Brown Extension Street, and shots soon followed.
“You want to talk about thugs? You want to talk about gangsters? You want to talk about people who should be in prison and have been, one might argue, determined to be in prison based on their contingent criminal enterprises and are out on the street?” Wiley said.
“I mean that’s what we got. And, uh, it’s not a proud moment for Ascension and certainly a sad moment for the deceased.”
When the gunshots ceased, Isaac “Ike” Prestley, 23, 39035 Saturn Drive, Darrow, was shot in his hip and fatally wounded. Another man, Clarence Ruth, 19, 5274 Galaxy Blvd., Darrow, was shot in his leg, Wiley and Chief Deputy Tony Bacala said.
Prestley was taken by private vehicle to an area hospital, where he died. Ruth survived his wounds and was released to deputies.
Wiley said shell casings from seven different calibers of weapons were found at the scene, including shells believed to match a semi-automatic AK-47.
“What you had there admittedly was an OK Corral where this group … had an issue with one or two in that group, and nowadays, the culture in the minority community and often times in the community nationwide is that we deal with things with weapons. We deal with it with guns,” he said.
Bacala said the four arrested men have numerous prior arrests, including assault, weapons and drug counts.
Two of the men who arrived in the Porsche — Demitoris “Big Tachi” Alexander, 48, 146 E. 26th St., Gonzales; and Tachi Williams, 28, 1222 E. Grace St., Gonzales — are father and son, Wiley said.
Alexander, whom Bacala called a “bad guy” with multiple convictions, has had run-ins with law enforcement from Texas to New Orleans.
According to court records, Alexander pleaded guilty in February 1995 in U.S. District Court in New Orleans to federal cocaine distribution and firearms charges and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He began a five-year period of supervised release in mid-December 2007, online records show.
Last year, Alexander was cited with a simple assault count in Ascension, but it was dropped April 2 at the victim’s request.
Since March 2010, Prestley also had amassed an arrest history in Ascension, including convictions for aggravated assault, marijuana possession and simple assault. He also pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to a simple battery count and was ordered to pay a $200 fine and spend 30 days in jail.
Chief Deputy Tony Bacala described Ruth and Prestley as street-level associates. While several people were firing guns, Bacala said, it was Ruth who shot Prestley.
“Our witnesses speak to the fact that they saw Clarence Ruth, the 19-year-old who was shot in the leg, fire the round that hit Isaac Prestley early in the gunfight,” Bacala said.
Prestley and Ruth lived about a block and a half apart from each other in the Astroland subdivision in nearby Hillaryville.
Prestley’s mother, Andrell Prestley, 45, said her son and Ruth were cousins and would hang out at her house.
However, Ruth’s father, Clarence Ruth Sr., said his son and Prestley were not related but were, in fact, good friends. He disputed that his son shot Prestley.
“My son did not shoot his friend. He did not kill his friend,” Ruth Sr. said.
Chief Deputy Bacala said Ruth has been arrested four times on drug, weapons and other counts, but records show only one of them in Ascension, a misdemeanor theft count from April 2012 that remains pending.
Andrell Prestley said she never expected her son, Isaac, could be caught up in community violence. He was expecting his first child, a boy to be named Tristan, in a few weeks.
“No indeed, ’cause he’s friendly with everybody. He helps everybody. He’d do anything and everything (if) somebody asked him to, no matter what,” Andrell Prestley said.
She said her son had left her house on Saturn, which is about a quarter-mile off La. 22, a few minutes before the shoot-out to go “on the front” as she cooked white beans and rice with gravy for him.
“He said, ‘I’ll be back, Ma.’ ”
She later heard the dozens of shots fired.
Bacala said another man, not Ike Prestley, was the actual target of the men who arrived in the Porsche. That man had a minor dispute with “Little Tachi” Williams earlier in the day that had seemed to subside but escalated again, Bacala said.
The man, who was not identified, was a friend of Prestley’s and was with him in the driveway along with other men hanging out there at the time of the shoot-out. Bacala also said Prestley was armed.
Witnesses saw the Porsche leaving the scene and Gonzales police later pulled over the SUV, with five men inside, on South Gaudin Avenue off Orice Roth Road in Gonzales, Bacala said.
As officers approached the SUV, one man ran away, but the other four, including the wounded Ruth, were taken into custody without incident, though some were heavily armed, Bacala said.
Bacala said three guns were recovered from the SUV and a fourth handgun was found in the driveway at the scene but the AK-47 has not been found.
Bacala said the fifth man, who has not been identified, remains at large and is considered a danger to the public.
In addition to the second-degree murder counts against Ruth and the three others, three of the arrested men were booked into parish jail on these counts, Bacala said:
- Cprien Nicholas, 29, 729 W. Worthey St., Gonzales, illegal use of a weapon.
- Alexander, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
- Williams, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Bacala said the investigation “is far from complete” and additional arrests are possible.