More than two dozen community leaders, clergymen and public officials on Tuesday stood where a Lafayette man was gunned down last week and challenged the community to go a month without the kind of bloodshed and violence that's taken seven lives in Lafayette Parish this summer.
Along with the shooting death of a 39-year-old Branch man near Scott early Monday, 22-year-old Desmond Boutte was shot and killed while playing basketball one afternoon last week outside the Martin Luther King Center.
And in late June, the slayings of Ashley Metz and Brouklynn Hill, whose bodies were found in burning cars early one morning in rural Lafayette Parish, shook the community while detectives worked for a week to unravel the gruesome case. Three other men were shot dead in June and at least as many were injured by gunfire.
Boutte himself was among the perpetrators of this year's gun violence. He pleaded guilty in June to one count of attempted first-degree murder and was killed days after his release from jail in the March drive-by shooting of a 17-year-old, according to court records. The victim in that shooting was just one of at least a half-dozen teenagers shot and injured this year.
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The Rev. Charles E. Banks, pastor of Fellowship Full Gospel Ministries, issued the cease-fire challenge at a midday press conference called at the memorial site of Boutte's killing, which is adorned with a photo of him and his 9-month-old daughter, balloons and candlesticks that were melting in the 93-degree heat.
"For the next 30 days, no more killing. No more breaking in people's houses. It's time to come together, people," Banks said.
During those 30 days, Banks and other community leaders said they plan to walk through neighborhoods after dark in effort to reach people who may be leading criminal lives.
Boutte's death came a day after the Baton Rouge killing of Alton Sterling by a police officer, the same day Philando Castile was killed by a Minnesota police officer and days before a sniper ambushed five officers — injuring nine others and two civilians — during a peaceful Dallas protest decrying the killings.
Banks, who identified himself as a former gang member who later turned to a life of religious service, said he understands the nation's frustrations with police killings.
But after hundreds marched in Lafayette on Monday following the Sterling, Castile and Dallas shootings, Banks questioned why the community does not respond in such large numbers each time someone is killed in their own backyard.
"Why can't we walk the streets here and tell them we're tired of it — we're tired of seeing another man die every week?" Banks said.
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Ronald Gotche, a Carencro 20-year-old who grew up in the Truman neighborhood and said Boutte was his closest friend, said he respects the efforts of the men trying to effect change in the community.
But he admitted if it weren't his friend who had been killed, he probably wouldn't have been at the King Center on Tuesday supporting their efforts — a problem, he said, that will make it difficult to reach young people whose attitudes will prove paramount to anyone trying to make a difference.
"We need people in my generation to stop it," Gotche said.