Three teens fatally shot; one wounded
“When the first couple of shots were fired, we all ran into a corner and then into a little kitchen area. And then finally we all broke out together and ran out.” Brandon Singleton, video producer and witness to the shooting
A crowded birthday bash in Baker on Friday night erupted in chaos when gunfire pierced the blaring music, killing three teenagers, injuring another and culminating in the arrest of a 16-year-old boy.
The shooting, shortly before 11 p.m. at the Baker Civic Club, left 15-year-old Marcell Franklin dead and sent three teenage boys to hospitals, said Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps.
Kendal Dorsey, 15, and Diontrey Claiborne, 18, died from injuries suffered in the shooting, Knaps said, while Javaughn Simmons, 19, is expected to recover after being shot in the face.
After conducting dozens of interviews throughout the night Friday and into Saturday, police announced Saturday night that they had arrested a 16-year-old boy accused in the triple-homicide.
Police did not release the boy’s name, citing his minor status, but the accused shooter was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention Center on three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count of illegal use of a weapon, Knaps said.
East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux described the shooting as “a tragic and senseless act.”
Authorities said it appears that several fights between teens dancing at the birthday party led up to the shooting, although they did not know whether the shooter or shooters had any relationship to the victims.
Simmons, who was awaiting surgery to remove a bullet from his mouth on Saturday, said from a hospital that he did not recognize the shooter.
“A dude shot the party up,” said Simmons, a Baker High School student who was attending the party with some friends.
His mother, Angela Simmons, said she received numerous phone calls about the shooting Friday night and quickly met her son at the civic club.
“It was scary,” she said. “Very crazy night last night.”
On Saturday afternoon, she said her son was still awaiting surgery.
“Thank God he’s still here,” Angela Simmons said. “As a parent, my heart goes out to the rest of the families.”
Attempts to reach the other victims’ family members were unsuccessful on Saturday.
Brandon Singleton, a video producer who attended the party to film the musical performance, witnessed the shooting and escaped unharmed.
“When the first couple of shots were fired, we all ran into a corner and then into a little kitchen area,” Singleton said.
Singleton, 25, said he was huddled with a group of at least a dozen people taking shelter after the shots rang out. They were only a few feet from the victims.
“One of them got shot,” he said. “As another one was checking on him; the guy that was checking on him got shot as well.”
Within seconds, the group broke up and ran outside seeking shelter.
“Everything’s a blur,” Singleton said.
One girl who attended the party returned Saturday to look for her cellphone, which she lost in the chaos following the shooting.
“I heard four gunshots, and I hit the floor,” said the girl, who asked not to be identified, saying she feared for her safety.
The girl said she ducked near a side door to get her head down but was pushed outside as people tried to exit the building. She said she he heard three more gunshots once she was outside.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, who attended Saturday’s news conference, said law enforcement alone can’t stop teen violence — he needs help from parents.
“It’s just real frustrating,” Moore said. “It gets old after a while. We seem to make really big strides and come a long way, then all of a sudden, we get punched in the stomach, the community gets punched in the stomach.”
Moore asked parents to play proactive roles in their children’s lives with the hope parents might catch on to potential violent behavior patterns before they erupt into tragedy.
Hazel Mitchell, president of the Baker Civic Club, a nonprofit organization, said of the shooting, “We’ve not had anything like this before.”
Mitchell recalled only one raucous incident in the past 10 years at the civic club, and that involved intoxicated adults celebrating a wedding.
Mitchell also said she and the other board members were “in shock” when news broke about the shooting.
Recently, a club board member whom Mitchell declined to identify met with a relative of the birthday girl who wanted to rent the building for the girl’s Sweet 16 party, Mitchell said.
The relative signed a contract, which did not require security at the party but did suggest security be hired if alcohol would be served at the party, Mitchell said.
Authorities said investigators did not find any evidence of alcohol consumption at the party, although they could not rule out whether some attendees drank alcohol or consumed other drugs prior to the party.
Days before the party but after the club had already entered into an agreement with the renter, Mitchell was notified about a flyer circulating social media advertising the birthday party. The flyer announced the bash as party for “Fredo,” and several people can be seen holding cash in the advertisement. One person had cash in his mouth and another was wearing a snorkel.
Mitchell said it’s not uncommon for the club’s building to serve as a host site for parties for young people.
The club had planned on hosting a free Easter egg hunt for community children next week. But during the Friday night party, some people broke into a closet and destroyed about $1,000 worth of Easter equipment.
“I’m hoping we’ll still be able to have it,” Mitchell said.