Opelousas authorities targeting drug-related violence

Police Chief Perry Gallow vowed Friday to take action against gun- and drug-related violence that has led to a record number of killings in January and called on residents to step up and report crimes.

“To the criminals of Opelousas, beware,” Gallow said at a news conference. “This is an all-out war. I don’t like using that term, but it is what it is.

“We are going to take you and all of your associates under control and make sure justice is served,” Gallow said in a statement to violent law breakers.

Opelousas police arrested three suspects in the January murders, each of whom was booked on counts of second-degree murder. Authorities said that in each case the victims and suspects knew each other.

The victims and the people accused of killing them, all from Opelousas, were:

Eric Harrison, 32, killed on Planters Street on Jan. 3. Joshua Goodley, 23, was arrested in that slaying.

Jermaine Andrus, 28, was shot and killed on Emma Street on Jan. 19. Police arrested Diovanni LaFountain, 21, in that killing.

DeWayne “Robbie” White, 41, was shot and killed near Caddo Street on Tuesday. Nathaniel McCoy, 32, was arrested in that killing.

“All of these individuals, both victims and suspects, knew each other,” Gallow said. “These are not random shootings. These crimes have been investigated and determined to be drug-related crimes.”

Opelousas and St. Landry Parish council members, School Board members along with principals and educators, attended the news conference at the Opelousas Police Department.

Gallow spoke near two tables holding 32 firearms, which he said made up only a third of the guns collected from people charged in Opelousas in 2013.

“Gun violence in Opelousas is endemic and notorious,” Gallow said. “It is confined to certain areas in our city and certain elements of the city.”

The Opelousas police plan to target problem areas, he said.

For residents not involved in criminal or drug activity, the chances of being a victim of violent crime are minimal.

“My message today is to say to you, law-abiding citizens of Opelousas, ‘You are safe. You are safe in this city,’” Gallow said. “Those who are not law-abiding citizens, no, you are not.”

Gallow urged residents to be vigilant and to report problems.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz assured parish residents that he too is committed to the fight.

“I will continue to provide manpower, resources and training as I’ve done since the beginning,” Guidroz said.

District Attorney Earl Taylor announced a walk Saturday organized to stop the violence.

“I believe that we have deferred too often in the discipline of our children and our youth,” Taylor said. “I believe that it’s our chance now to make a difference.”

Several crowd members offered solutions and advice for the police department.

“We try to make sure our children understand that our law enforcement officers are our friends,” said Emma Jones, principal of Southwest Elementary School.

Jones also urged community organizations to get involved and help stop violence in the area.