PRAIRIEVILLE — A burst of gunfire erupted outside and bullets sprayed inside a Prairieville trailer home Thursday night where two boys were watching television and Tamekia Ricks was reading a book in bed.
Ricks said she ran to the living room and shielded the children on the floor.
Ricks’ fiancé, Dwayne Stephens, was walking toward the door when the shooting began. He made it inside before collapsing to the floor from fatal gunshot wounds.
“Bullets were going all over the trailer,” she said.
Ricks said she was able to ask Stephens if he was hit before seeing a wound on his shoulder moments before he fell to the floor.
Stephens was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead from multiple gunshot wounds to the abdomen a short time later.
Ricks, the couple’s 4-year-old son and Stephens’ 14-year-old son all escaped the ordeal without being wounded.
Lt. Col. Bobby Webre said Ascension Parish sheriff’s detectives are searching for three men suspected in the killing: 22-year-old Joshua Stephens and 17-year-old Caleb Carter, both of Prairieville, and 22-year-old Marcus Harris, of Baton Rouge.
The investigation determined that the three men had pulled into the trailer home’s driveway in a Lincoln Town Car and got out of the car. One was armed with a firearm and another with a semi-automatic rifle, Webre said in a news release.
The suspects fired toward the victim as he walked to his home, striking him multiple times and firing more than 30 shots into the residence, Webre said.
Relatives of Dwayne Stephens said on Friday that Joshua Stephens is a cousin of Dwayne Stephens and that Caleb Carter is Joshua Stephens’ brother.
On Friday morning, Ricks stood in the roadway near the scene of the shooting with several of Dwayne Stephens’ family members and friends, waiting while detectives investigated the scene until she could return to the trailer home to get clothes and other items for the children.
The home, at 39150 Lee Stevens Road, sits at the end of a dead-end street in a seemingly quiet area with large shade trees. Children’s bikes and tricycles could be seen in front of the home.
Betty Stephens, Dwayne Stephens’ aunt, said her nephew did construction work at an area plant and “had a heart of gold.”
“That was my first nephew, and I pretty much took care of him” as he was growing up, Betty Stephens said. “He was always jolly, making you laugh.
“He was always with family,” she added. “Today, we were going to have a crawfish boil” at his home for Good Friday.
Betty Stephens described Joshua Stephens, one of the men sought by detectives in the killing, as “someone that was gun happy.”
“He just got out of jail two months ago” on a gun-related charge, she said.
“The community would call (sheriff’s deputies) because he would ride up and down the road, just shooting,” Betty Stephens said.
“He spent a lot of time back here,” she said of Joshua Stephens. “We’re all family; we were raised on this road. But (Joshua Stephens’ behavior) got out of hand. It got to the point where he was like, ‘I don’t care.’ ”
But she did say Joshua Stephens loved his cousin.
“He used to call him Dad and me Mom,” said Ricks, who had been engaged to Dwayne Stephens for four years.
Cedric Johnson, another cousin of the victim, said of Joshua Stephens, one of the suspects, “When he was sober, you could have a normal conversation with him. He was very respectful.”
But, when Joshua Stephens wasn’t sober, “it was like night and day,” Johnson said.
Betty Stephens said Carter, Joshua’s brother, also being sought by detectives, “was just riding with his big brother. He had nothing to do with it.”
Joshua Stephens, 39150 La. 929, Prairieville, and Harris, 3374 Eleanor Drive, Baton Rouge, are wanted on first-degree murder, four counts attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a firearm, possession of a firearm by convicted felon, aggravated criminal damage to property and illegal use of weapon, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Carter, 39150 La. 929, Prairieville, is wanted on first-degree murder, four counts attempted first-degree murder and aggravated criminal damage to property, the Sheriff’s Office said.
Anyone with information is urged to call the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office at (225) 621-4636, text 847411 or call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.