Two 11-year-old girls shot, one killed

Witnesses say several children inside

Arabian Gayles
Arabian Gayles

An 11-year-old girl died and two other people were wounded Monday after multiple gunmen opened fire on a house full of children in a brazen shooting in the Carrollton area.

Police said that at about 12:15 a.m. gunshots erupted in the 1300 block of General Ogden, a block away from Oak Street and adjacent to the river near the Jefferson Parish line.

Arabian Gayles, 11, suffered numerous gunshot wounds, including one to the head. She was taken to a hospital in critical condition and died slightly after 5 a.m. Her identity was confirmed by John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office.

Arabian’s cousin, 11-year-old Paulreiona Cary, was shot in the hand, and 38-year-old Tommy Briggs was shot in the arm, according to accounts from police and family members. Their wounds were not life-threatening.

Derek Moffett, Arabian’s uncle, said he was sleeping in the house when the shooting occurred. He awoke to a horrifying scene.

“When they woke me up, I thought they were playing,” he said. “Then I saw blood coming out of her head.”

Moffett sat listlessly on the family’s porch Monday afternoon, one of many relatives who said they were emotionally overwhelmed by the girl’s death.

“It’s eating me alive,” Moffett said.

Arabian’s mother, Ashley Moffett, told WVUE-TV that her daughter was killed while holding her 1-year-old nephew.

New Orleans police spokeswoman Remi Braden said that police found shell casings from different weapons at the scene and believe multiple gunmen were involved.

A neighbor who spoke on condition of anonymity said he heard at least six shots before a car sped away.

Shalonda Cary, Paulreiona’s mother, heard news of the shooting while at work.

“I was destroyed,” she said. “To come home and see the bullet holes, the blood on the sofa, my daughter in an ambulance and my niece fighting for her life. It’s a catastrophe.”

Well-wishers placed a giant teddy bear and a vase of flowers on the porch of the family’s beige duplex where friends and family gathered to grieve.

Glass on the family’s front door was shattered from the gunshots and smudges of blood were still visible.

Relatives said Ashley Moffett was distraught. Moffett had six children and is pregnant with another, family members said.

The shooting was the second in less than a week in which a child was killed. On Thursday, 1-year-old Londyn Samuels was fatally shot in Central City while in the arms of her babysitter.

At a news conference on Friday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu decried what he described as “the drumbeat of death” that criminals were inflicting upon the city.

The mayor released a statement Monday mourning the death of Arabian as well.

“Within a week’s time, two lives were taken in our city. Both of these unspeakable tragedies leave behind families who are searching for answers,” he said.

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas joined Landrieu in expressing condolences for the victims and implored anyone with information to come forward.

“We need the community to step up to assist us in making those responsible pay for their actions. They must be stopped,” he said.

Crimestoppers has increased the reward to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case, and anyone with information is asked to call 504-822-1111.

Friends and family members remembered Arabian as a sweet, “one of a kind” child who loved to dance.

Cary said that the girl had recently tried out for the flag team at Lafayette Elementary School, which she attended. Others said they would often see Arabian practicing her dance moves with friends.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the gunmen targeted the house. Officer Garry Flot, an NOPD spokesman, could not say late Monday whether police had visited the residence before.

Neighbors said the block is typically quiet. They were unnerved by the violence.

“Now I’m not letting the kids outside,” said Alicia Ellis, 23, who lives nearby.

Others said the house where the shooting occurred was often filled with people. According to one neighbor, a recent birthday party held at the residence grew so boisterous that police had to shut it down due to loud music.

By late Monday afternoon, numerous people were streaming in and out of the house, but Ashley Moffett stayed inside, mourning the loss of her child.

“She’s holding up as best as she can for herself and her other five,” said Cary. “She just knows her daughter isn’t coming back.”

One man, who was visibly agitated, screamed into a cellphone, “They shot my… niece,” before announcing to another what sounded like a plan for revenge.

“We got some AKs and we got (expletive) names,” he said.