Families seek justice from tragedy at Baker Civic Club

The wait was agonizing Friday night for four parents as they tried to find out what happened to their children shortly after gunfire erupted at the Baker Civic Club.

“I kept praying,” said Nakesha Dorsey, mother of Kendal Dorsey, 15, an aspiring rapper who was one of the victims gunned down.

She was working the night shift at the Domino’s Pizza on Harding Boulevard when she became inundated with text messages and phone calls saying her son had been shot.

“I kept talking to God,” Dorsey said. “I was praying for the best.”

She was first told by a friend of Kendal’s that he had been shot in the hand. Finally, another called and said he heard Kendal had been shot in the head.

Kendal and three other teens — Marcell Franklin, 15; Diontrey Claiborne, 18; and Javaughn Simmons, 19 — were shot shortly after 11 p.m. in the large open room of the Civic Club in Baker.

Marcell was pronounced dead at the scene while Kendal and Claiborne died at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.

Simmons was taken to Lane Memorial Hospital in Zachary after getting shot in the jaw.

He’s expected to recover.

On Saturday afternoon, police arrested the accused shooter, a 16-year-old teen, and booked him into the East Baton Rouge Juvenile Detention Center on three counts of first-degree murder and one count each of attempted first-degree murder and illegal use of a weapon.

Authorities have not released the name of the suspect, saying he is a minor.

Overnight, two white candles and a solitary balloon appeared outside the Baker Civic Club on North Magnolia Drive.

Baker Police Chief Mike Knaps said Sunday that a team of four detectives, including two from the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, were still conducting interviews, looking for more information about what led to Friday night’s triple homicide.

“We’re really taking this one step at a time,” Knaps said.

He said he could not comment on a possible motive.

“It’s a very slow process,” he said.

But understanding the motive to the shooting may not bring much solace to the families of the victims.

“I’ve seen people lose their child, but I never thought it would be me,” Dorsey said, tearing up while holding a picture of Kendal.

She described her son, the boy she called “Mone,” as her world.

Kendal went to the birthday party with Simmons, the teen who was wounded, and another man.

Dorsey said people at the party told her that when Simmons was shot, her son knelt down to see what happened.

That was when a bullet struck him.

She said she is relying on her faith and family to guide her through the nightmare.

“I don’t hate him,” she said of the 16-year-old arrested in the shooting. “I forgive him, but I don’t want him to ever see the streets again.”

Marcell’s mother did not feel the same as Dorsey toward the teenage suspect.

“They made an arrest, but I haven’t got justice yet,” Sandra Barton said. “I want justice for my child, and once I get that, my child can rest and I can rest, too.”

She said she would like to see the teen get the death penalty.

But a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty for teens convicted of crimes they committed when they were 17 or younger.

Barton and her daughter were inseparable, she said, and kept in constant communication with each other. Now Barton wonders what she will do.

“One neighbor down the street, she came this morning and told me, ‘Every time I see you in the truck, you have your little girl with you,’ ” Barton said.

Marcell, Barton’s only daughter — she also has four boys — loved to dance and take pictures, Barton said.

“I never thought my child would leave me at such an early age,” she said.

Both Barton and Dorsey said they did not know the teen suspected of shooting their children.

Dorsey said someone told her that her son was with the shooter about 10 days ago, but she was not certain if that was true.

On the weekends, Marcell stayed with her best friend, Tyisha Andrews, 15, at the Baker home of Tyisha’s grandmother, Shelia Andrews.

Tyisha and Marcell went to the party together.

When the shooting started, Tyisha said she immediately looked for Marcell and saw her on the ground. Thinking her friend was crawling to safety, Tyisha ran to a nearby storage closet and hid with a group of other people.

When the shooting stopped, the teens emerged and Tyisha immediately looked for her friend. She spotted her lying on the floor.

“I looked down on the ground and she had blood coming from her head,” the teen said.

Andrews said she considered herself Marcell’s weekend mom, and she’s struggling with the loss of the teen she considered her baby.

“I’ve been getting calls from everyone about Marcell because when they see me, they see Tyisha and Marcell,” Andrews said. “They’re two peas in a pod. You couldn’t pull them apart.”

Andrews and Barton both said they had no problem with the girls attending the party because the two friends had attended several birthday parties before without incident.

A sign outside Claiborne’s home Sunday asked reporters to respect the family’s privacy. Family members weren’t ready to speak publicly, according to the sign.

District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Sunday morning that he was leaning toward trying the 16-year-old suspect as an adult.

He said he could not comment on the case until he receives the case files.

“It’s something I’m going to review with all the investigative officers and my staff to come up with the right decision under these circumstances,” Moore said.

The shooting rocked the small town of Baker.

Dion Tolliver, a 44-year-old New Orleans transplant living in Baker, said the news of the brazen shooting shocked her. She said she expects that kind of violence in New Orleans, but not in a small town like Baker.

Tolliver, a mother of four, ages 27, 22, 19 and 10, said that when her children would ask her permission to go to a party, she made sure she knew who else would be there, what kind of security would be there and sometimes even chaperoned the parties herself.

“It’s hard to do, but I guess the only way to keep them safe is to keep them home,” Tolliver said.