GRAMERCY — St. James Parish deputies are investigating a fight at the Christmas Eve bonfire celebration that family members say injured at least two and appears to have had a racial motivation.
St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin Jr. said his office is still trying to gather details of the incident on the Mississippi River levee, but the mothers of the victims, two teenage black boys, claim their sons were injured by a group of white males after a white female spoke to another black male with their sons.
La'Quesha Scott, 34, of Convent, and Lahoma Dumas, 38, of Gonzales, said their sons, who are cousins, had gone to the bonfire celebration in Gramercy with a group of friends from Ascension Parish who had never seen the bonfires before.
She said the boys didn't know anyone who was lighting a bonfire but went to watch, as many do. The annual holiday tradition with more than two centuries of history draws thousands of visitors, many from out of town and even out of state.
Scott and Dumas said a group of white males began to attack the group of black youths after the female spoke to them.
Neither mother was present for the incident and said they are relying on the boys' account.
"I wasn't there," Dumas said, "but I'm going off what all of them told me. They all have the same story, so …"
The Sunday night fight actually happened in the town of Gramercy but Sheriff Martin said Wednesday he expected that his office, given that juveniles were part of the incident, would get involved.
Martin said he heard scanner traffic about the fight early Monday morning and spoke briefly with officials but heard nothing else until a mother of one of the victims called his office Wednesday.
He said he has assigned a juvenile deputy to the case and asked the officer to find out what Gramercy officers have done so far but his office is still playing catch-up.
"Based on what the parents told us, we're obviously going to take it and start digging into it," Martin said.
The sheriff said Gramercy officers early on told him they went to the scene of the reported fight shortly afterward but were unable to find anyone there.
Scott said she believes the fight had a racial element and made similar allegations in a Facebook post Wednesday.
In her post, Scott also put up pictures of Dumas's son, Shannon Dumas Jr., 17, showing severe injuries around his eyes, cheeks, scalp, as well as what appears to be a split earlobe. Scott claimed her nephew had been hit with a Crown Royal bottle several times and knocked unconscious.
Scott said Shannon Dumas Jr. is her nephew. She added that her 15-year-old son suffered a sprained knee in the incident.
Scott said a Gramercy police officer took a report on the incident, which happened in the town limits, but, with the passage of a few days, she went to the Sheriff's Office on Wednesday.
She said authorities have been provided with the names of three of the alleged assailants. Lahoma Dumas said her son knew some of the boys from school.
Lahoma Dumas said she understands it is the holidays but said she is wondering if the police are taking the incident seriously since it happened Sunday night and they have the names of some suspects.
"That's my point. Why haven't they been arrested," Lahoma Dumas said.
Scott said Gramercy Police officers told her they are still working on the case. An officer answering the telephone late Wednesday afternoon said to call back during business hours Thursday.