Last week, students at Mildred Osborne Charter School on Curran Boulevard in New Orleans East were playing in the school yard like they normally do on a typical day. They were laughing, running, jumping as kids tend to do. What they didn't realize is something was about to happen that they would remember the rest of their lives.
Suddenly, the sounds of gunfire filled the air, sending students screaming and running in all directions. The bullets were flying everywhere. Three people near the school were hit. Fortunately, none of the bullets struck any of the kids.
Wanda Ard told WWL-TV she was standing with her niece in front of her house, which sits across from the school, when she heard what she described as a hail of gunshots.
“A first round rang out, and then a second round of gunshots came through,” said Ard. She says students at the K-8 school heard the gunfire, too. “Kids started screaming and running everywhere.”
Ard credited school staff for acting quickly once the shooting began.
“They did get the kids in the school and shut the school down, so that was a good thing, but it’s just ridiculous,” Ard said. “It was right by the school.”
Ard says after the shooting, she saw a car speeding away.
“I assume that was probably either a car getting out of the way or the car that was doing the shooting,” Ard said. “I mean, it’s like, are you serious? You are shooting, there are kids in the yard, playing and any one of them could have been accidentally hit."
These type of shootings happen all too often in New Orleans — especially in New Orleans East. But they don't often happen in front of kids innocently playing at school. Kids aren't equipped to handle this kind of stuff. Such raw violence. How could the gunman or gunmen open fire in front of so many children? How corrupt does one's conscience have to be to do such a thing?
The bigger tragedy is the shooter or shooters will most likely get away with it. Most shootings in New Orleans are never solved. Ard holds out hope.
“They are going to catch y'all,” she said. “It’s going to be a matter of time, but they are going to catch you all because guess what? You are going to be stopped, you have to be stopped, and you will be stopped."
But according to a recent study by The Washington Post, New Orleans has 14 neighborhoods with an arrest rate of under 37 percent when it comes to homicides. New Orleans East is one of those neighborhoods. Yes, they are literally getting away with murder in New Orleans.
Getting away with opening fire and spraying bullets without fear of arrest is not lost on those pulling the trigger. The shooters may be callous, hard-hearted and uncaring, but they're also fully aware of what they can and cannot get away with.
Part of the problem police and prosecutors often face in solving gun violence is the lack of cooperation from witnesses living in dangerous neighborhoods. Speaking out can be life-threatening. Anyone willing to open fire on a crowd would certainly be willing to kill a witness. After police pick up the shell casings and remove their yellow tape and leave the crime scene, locals are left to live in their neighborhood with the dangerous still among them.
Common sense would dictate locking up violent criminals for longer periods once convicted would help. It's a small percentage of the population willing to engage in such violence. The fewer on the streets, the safer the neighborhood.
But the focus in some circles these days is toward lowering bail for criminals, shortening sentences, emptying our jails, and rehabilitation. But some are so broken, disturbed and violent that they must be locked up and for a very long time. It would be nice if they could be rehabilitated, and one day, that may happen. But public safety has to be the first concern. If we're to err, we should do so on the side of protecting the innocent, not the violent. We owe it to the decent and law-abiding people living in crime-ridden neighborhoods.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @DanFaganShow.