Baton Rouge police made several arrests and seized more than a dozen guns — including some that were stolen and some that police said are fully automatic assault rifles — after detaining a group of people who were filming a rap video Monday evening.
Authorities responded to the scene after receiving a tip about people waving guns in the middle of Pampas Street, which is a short residential street off Plank Road near its intersection with Mohican Street.
Baton Rouge police announced the resulting arrests in a news release Wednesday morning, saying three of the guns were confirmed stolen. This marks the latest of several recent law enforcement actions targeting Baton Rouge rappers and their affiliates amid growing public concern about gun violence involving those groups.
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An anonymous caller contacted the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office around 5 p.m. Monday about the action on Pampas Street. Police spokesman Sgt. L'Jean McKneely Jr. said deputies passed along the tip to Baton Rouge police; officers arrived on the scene soon thereafter. Several people holding assault rifles saw the cops arrive and started walking away, but were stopped and detained.
McKneely said officers initially detained 15 people and eight were later arrested or issued misdemeanor summonses. Two teenagers were booked into the parish's juvenile detention facility, four adults were booked into jail and two others were issued summonses to appear in district court.
"We hope these arrests send a message that this type of thing won't be tolerated," McKneely said. "We want people to know that if they want to shoot these videos, there's a right way to do it that doesn't put lives in danger."
He said Baton Rouge residents deserve to feel safe in their city, and having a bunch of men waving assault rifles around in a public place is unacceptable.
Guns are a familiar sight in rap videos and social media posts among rappers who often base their music on the struggles and triumphs of life in the streets. But McKneely said most professional rappers use props when shooting their videos, either realistic replicas of firearms or real guns that have been disabled so they can't be discharged.
This wasn't the first time police received reports of guns being used to film rap videos, but McKneely said people are sometimes reluctant to report such sightings for fear of retaliation.
Sgt. Troy Lawrence Sr., commander of the department's Street Crimes Division, said investigators reviewed the group's video footage, which they received from the videographer on scene Monday who wasn't arrested. The footage shows other people had also been in possession of the stolen guns, so police are in the process of writing warrants for additional arrests.
Lawrence said at least four more arrests are expected.
Those already arrested are Dedric White, 25, Lance White, 30, and Jurhonda Small, 24, who are accused of possessing stolen firearms and drugs. Michael Castillo, 24, was also booked on an active warrant for home invasion and disturbing the peace. The names of the juveniles were not released.
Police said the drug counts resulted from officers recovering a small amount of marijuana and pills at the scene.
It appears this wasn't the first time rap videos were recorded on Pampas Street. A social media account, which police confirmed belongs to Dedric White, shows dozens of photos and videos of him and others brandishing guns in various Baton Rouge neighborhoods.
He has rapped about gun violence and going to jail. His music also references Baton Rouge's 70805 ZIP code, which has historically been known for its pockets of high crime and has been the focus of several initiatives aimed at combating violent crime through outreach and enhanced support services for young men.
Court records show Dedric White was arrested on second-degree murder in 2012 after he was accused of shooting a teenage girl in the neck when she refused to have sex with him. The victim was paralyzed but initially survived the shooting. She then died months later from complications.
White pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years in prison.
The outstanding warrant on which Castillo was arrested accuses him of harassing his ex-girlfriend and former business partner, trying to barge into her apartment uninvited and then smashing the windshield of her car. Court records show the incident happened in March and police issued a warrant soon thereafter but hadn't been able to arrest Castillo until he was detained Monday.
Castillo performs under the stage name "Runik" and has built a big following on various social media platforms, posting comedic and rap videos. His claim to fame was a video recorded from his hospital room while the young man was being treated for lymphoma, showing him dancing from the bed while his friend raps. The video went viral and launched his career, according to a profile published earlier this year in 225 Magazine.
Those who received misdemeanor summonses also appear to be members of the local rap scene. The other two adults arrested don't appear to have significant criminal histories in East Baton Rouge.
It's unclear whether the suspects are affiliated with larger Baton Rouge rap groups, and police declined to comment on possible connections.
Local law enforcement has taken several steps in recent months to prevent gun violence stemming from rap beefs, specifically an established feud between the associates of Baton Rouge rappers NBA YoungBoy and Gee Money. The two were friends growing up and entered the rap scene around the same time, but later had a falling out just months before Gee Money was found shot to death in September 2017. An associate of NBA YoungBoy was arrested in that shooting earlier this summer, and another associate was arrested just days later and accused of firing alongside the rapper in a 2016 nonfatal shooting in Baton Rouge.
Music insiders have long speculated about the widespread impacts of an ongoing feud between two Baton Rouge rappers and their associates.
Those arrests came less than a month after a deadly shootout in Miami involving NBA YoungBoy's entourage, which led authorities to ramp up investigations into Baton Rouge rap feuds.
Officials expressed concern Wednesday about Baton Rouge residents living in neighborhoods where it's normal to see people running around with assault rifles.
"The combination of young adults and semi-automatic weapons is a recipe for potential disaster and loss of life," East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore III said in a statement. "We are grateful for the quick work by the Baton Rouge Police Department in identifying this threat and reacting as swiftly as they did."
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Editor's Note: This story was updated to include additional background on the suspects.