GONZALES — A new city ordinance would hold property owners or residents criminally responsible for parties that get out of hand, Police Chief Sherman Jackson said.
The ordinance, approved by the City Council on Monday night, follows a May incident at former NBA player John “Hot Rod” Williams’ Gonzales residence which ended in gunfire, Jackson said.
The police chief added, however, the law is not meant to target any one person, but merely to address what he, Mayor Barney Arceneaux and the City Council saw as a gap in enforcement authority.
The ordinance applies to property owners or residents who “allow a loud or unruly party or gathering in a residential area which involves crowds overflowing into yards, sidewalks, or streets, or unlawful conduct that creates a substantial disturbance in a significant segment of a neighborhood.”
Unlawful conduct includes excessive noise, public drunkenness, serving alcohol to minors, discharge of firearms, fighting, urinating in public and disturbing the peace, according to the text of the ordinance.
A first conviction would be punishable by a fine of no more than $500, or 60 days in jail; a second conviction is punishable by a $500 fine and three to 90 days in jail, and any subsequent convictions by no less than 90 days in jail, the ordinance states.
It became effective after the unanimous vote Monday night, Arceneaux said.
“We have no intention of shutting down every family reunion in every neighborhood and arresting the homeowner,” Jackson said. “This ordinance is meant to address those parties with illegal activity.”
Councilman Terance Irvin stressed that the new law does not add permit requirements for parties in residential neighborhoods.
After the incident in May, Williams and his relatives told officers that about eight shots were fired by an unknown person attending the party put on for members of Williams’ family, according to a news release issued by the Police Department.
No one was injured, police said.
Williams told officers that the party had grown to more than 100 people and that he began to see unfamiliar faces. Williams began to shut the party down when the shots were fired and said he believes that his ending the party was the reason for the gunplay, police said.
This was the second time in a year and a half that gunfire broke out at Williams’ residence.
Shots were fired during a fight that injured two people at Williams’ house on Oct. 31, 2009, police reported at the time.
City Attorney Ryland Percy said he, the mayor, Police Department and City Council have been working on the law for the last couple of months.
While they considered adding permitting requirements in conjunction with the law, the group agreed it would be too restrictive for citizens.