Arabian Gayles was the type of student who wanted others to succeed.
The 11-year-old sixth-grader at Lafayette Academy Charter School who was practicing for dance team auditions would refocus a distracted classmate or fuss at another who might not be living up to his or her potential.
But that drive to make the lives of others better was cut short early Monday when multiple gunmen opened fire on the Carrollton-area home where Arabian lived, killing her and wounding an 11-year-old cousin and 38-year-old relative.
On Tuesday night, a crowd of hundreds gathered in front of her home in the 1300 block of General Ogden Street to remember the girl during a display of raw emotion from a family distraught by the sudden loss.
“I don’t wish nobody would go through this. I feel like a piece of me is gone,” said Ashley Moffett, Arabian’s mother. “It’s not right. It’s not fair. She was innocent.”
As tears streamed down her face, Moffett hollered a final plea: “You need to come forward,” she pleaded to the child’s murderer.
“I want my baby!” she sobbed. Moments later she fell out of a chair, unconscious, and was later brought from the scene on a stretcher, awake but still grieving.
Dozens of fellow Lafayette students gathered outside of the family home to grieve and pay their respects to a girl that one school official said was universally loved. Many wept openly in the street.
The school on Tuesday called in about 30 counselors to help the roughly 940 Lafayette students cope with the trauma, said Mickey Landry, executive director of the Choice Foundation, which operates the school.
Counselors told the students they have a support system and people who can talk to them. “Mostly, though, we listened,” Landry said. “It was important to let them do the talking today.”
Paulette Carter, president and CEO of the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans, a children’s mental health agency, had about 17 mental-health professionals at Lafayette on Tuesday to speak with the students, focusing on those who were closer to Arabian and her cousin, who was out of the hospital after being treated for a gunshot wound to her hand.
“A lot of kids were questioning how this could happen. There were concerns about safety,” Carter said. “A lot of kids were really concerned about their own safety. You’re in your own house and you expect to be safe, and that wasn’t the case for Arabian.”
While the counselors spared the gruesome details about the girl’s death, they were candid about the most obvious facts of the case.
“Kids are super perceptive. We think that if we don’t talk to them that they’re not going to know what’s going on. But kids pick up all kinds of things,” Carter said. “If you leave it up to kids’ imaginations, that story will be a lot worse than the real story.”
The reality of the loss would be tough for most students at the school to deal with, Landry said.
“She was a good student, a kind of almost little mother figure to some of the other students. If they would start to lose focus, she would be the ones to call them back to task and mildly fuss at them or would help them when they needed help,” he said. “She’s going to be missed; a lot of kids really loved her.”
At the family home Tuesday evening, those who gathered prayed for justice in the case and an end to violence that has seen two children slain in less than a week. Last Thursday night, 13-month-old Londyn Samuels was shot to death in the arms of her babysitter when two men ran up and opened fire on the 18-year-old woman in the 2800 block of South Saratoga Street in Central City.
“When is it going to stop? The violence has to stop,” Pastor Jeffery Davis of True Light Baptist Church shouted from the steps of the family’s home. “This city needs a healing. This family needs a healing. Lord, those who are responsible for this, don’t let them rest.”
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