New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison walked the streets of a Central City neighborhood Thursday night in an effort to reach out to residents rattled by the killing of a woman this week and a shooting earlier this month that left five wounded and one dead.
Harrison, 6th District Cmdr. Ronnie Stevens and beat cops began the walk at Josephine and Willow streets, the spot where Sabrina Watson, 43, was shot to death inside an SUV on Tuesday morning. Her death followed the killings of two other men within a block radius since March.
Just a few blocks away, a store at South Claiborne Avenue and First Street was the scene Sept. 11 of the worst spasm of violence the city has seen this year. Six people were shot, one fatally, in an apparently gang-related attack.
Among those left hurting by the violent acts is Watson's sister, Desiree Watson Jones, 57. In 2005, her son Yoshio Watson was shot to death in Central City. Now her sister's three children have been left motherless.
"It's time to find a way to stop this violence," Watson Jones said. "It's got to stop."
Evelyn Every, 65, took part in Thursday night's march. She said she was in her house Sept. 11 when she heard the sound of gunshots. When she looked out, she said, the scene of the mass shooting was "horrible."
"I want to see things change. I'm glad to see the police presence," Every said.
Police have not announced any suspects in Watson's killing or the mass shooting, but Harrison sought to reassure residents that officers remain committed to solving them.
It was half a charm offensive and half a show of force for Harrison, who began his career as a rookie cop in the 6th District. The chief stopped on street corners and in doorways to chat with residents as the march wended its way from Josephine and Willow to the scene of the Claiborne shooting, then back again.
Harrison said he had no new information to offer on the investigations. "We have been getting information, but we need more," he said. "We need more from our citizens."
Bernell Toney, a 39-year-old chef, joined the march because he knew Watson, though he was skeptical that the event could help stop the violence.
As a youngster, he said, he never would have taken part in such an event. In 2002, though, Toney survived a shooting. The scars are still on his body.
"Over and over," he said with sorrow in his voice. "I might be next. I'm not living life like that, but anybody can get it."