Police puzzled at lack of tips
Frustrated by a lack of information, authorities and family on Friday pleaded for anyone with information about who killed 13-month-old Londyn Samuels and shot her baby sitter to come forward.
Unlike previous homicides involving children caught in the crossfire, which often bring out a robust response, the phone at Crimestoppers has rung only once with a tip for investigators.
“We are very surprised” by the lack of tips, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said. “In this case, we need more help.”
The chief’s admission contrasted with the confidence he has exuded after many recent shooting deaths, in which Serpas has warned suspects to surrender because detectives were quickly closing in.
The requests for help in finding the gunman or gunmen who killed Londyn and wounded her 18-year-old baby sitter came as police released a number of surveillance images that show the silhouettes of two men making their way down South Saratoga Street toward Washington Avenue in Central City, where they opened fire.
Serpas said police did not have any idea who the men were. “We think the neighborhood knows who they are,” he said.
The shooting happened about 8:20 p.m. Thursday.
The woman was walking down the street, holding Londyn, when two bullets were fired. At least one struck the baby sitter, exited her body and hit the girl, Serpas said.
Germaine Thomas said the teen who was injured is her granddaughter.
Thomas said she was in the back of her home in the 2800 block of South Saratoga Street when she heard the gunshots.
She walked toward the front of her house to find out what happened and was met by her granddaughter, who rushed inside carrying Londyn. The baby was bleeding from the head, Thomas said.
Thomas said her granddaughter told her two men approached her from behind and opened fire.
“Who? I don’t know,” Thomas said when asked if she or her granddaughter knew who was responsible.
“It’ll be critical information when she recovers to know if she knew her assailants,” 6th District Commander Bob Bardy said.
A police car was on the scene within a minute, authorities said. Paramedics arrived in fewer than five minutes and rushed the baby and woman to the hospital.
But the efforts to save Londyn were unsuccessful. She died at Interim LSU Public Hospital at 8:43 p.m., said John Gagliano, the Orleans Parish coroner’s chief investigator.
The 18-year-old baby sitter, who is a friend of Londyn’s father, was shot in the shoulder and underwent surgery late Thursday. Police said the injury was not serious and they have spoken to her.
The shooting happened just steps away from a barroom where patrons were watching the Saints game on TV. None of those people said they heard or saw anything, something that has slowed the investigation.
“We know that people know more about this than they are telling us,” Serpas said.
Londyn’s slaying was the fourth killing of a child in Central City since 2010, a grim statistic that provoked outrage from civic leaders.
The other victims included 5-year-old Brianna Allen, 2-year-old Jeremy Galmon and Keira Holmes, who was days away from her second birthday when bullets felled her.
Londyn celebrated her birthday Aug. 3.
“We as a community have to do some changing,” said Barbara Lacen-Keller, an aide to City Council Vice President Stacy Head, sometimes called “the mayor of Central City.”
“There was a time you didn’t hurt women and children,” Lacen-Keller said. “Community, we’ve got to start standing up.”
The search for suspects in Londyn’s death began early Friday morning.
The New Orleans Police Department dispatched its SWAT team just after midnight to a home in the 2800 block of LaSalle Street, a few blocks away from the shooting.
Just before 8 a.m. police interviewed two women and a man who were in the home, said officer Frank Robertson, a Police Department spokesman. Police did not identify the women and man, but a spokeswoman later said they were released after questioning.
Serpas said that there was evidence found in the home but did not specify what that evidence was.
Police have not said whether they believe the baby sitter was the intended target, nor have they identified a motive.
Londyn’s mother, Andrea Samuels, who works at Central City’s Cafe Reconcile training participants in the job-skills program, was too stunned to speak to reporters on Friday during a news conference at the restaurant.
The toddler’s father, Keion Reed, said the call from the babysitter alerting him to the news was surreal.
He remembered his daughter as a typically playful girl who got her name from her mother’s love of travel. Her older sister is named Paris, Reed noted.
The little girl, he said, enjoyed playing with smart phones and babbling on them like she was having conversations.
Mostly, though, she was a “daddy’s girl,” Reed said.
“She wouldn’t go to sleep without me in the bed,” Reed said. “When she smiled, you couldn’t help but be happy. Her smile was the highlight of my day.
“She was my world. She was my everything,” Reed said. “She was the reason I got up in the morning.”
At a vigil Friday evening at the site of the shooting, Mayor Mitch Landrieu decried what he called the “drumbeat of death” in New Orleans and urged neighbors to work together to help prevent crime but to also look at themselves as individuals when deciding how to behave.
“We are in a bad way. It didn’t used to be this way,” Landrieu said. “Michael Jackson had the song — it’s all about the ‘Man in the Mirror.’ ”
Crimestoppers has doubled to $5,000 the reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case.
Anyone with information can share it anonymously with Crimestoppers by calling (504) 822-1111.