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Shots Fired, Souls Forgotten: Gun Crime in Shreveport

Shreveport skyline
On the 9th of October, KSLA News 12 reported that “Police found 20 year old Que’Lexus Hunter and a 1-year old girl, each with a gunshot wound to the leg.” Neither the nation, the state, or the city ground to a halt in disbelief or protest or outrage. According to another source, “Detectives learned that shots were fired into the residence from outside of the home, hitting Hunter and her baby.” Toward the end of these articles, and countless dozens of others, if not hundreds just like it, the reporter will inform the public that any information they can provide to law enforcement regarding the crime or the perpetrators is appreciated. For Hunter, and hundreds just like her, and many hundreds more who were less fortunate, that is where the story ends. The assailants appear and disappear as suddenly, as if apparitions in some Hollywood movie, presumably to live on with naught but the guilt of their actions and a vague fear of punishment as consequence. The KLFY news station website reported on October 2nd that “Detectives arrested 17-year old Jereona Crosby and a 15 year old juvenile on warrants that charge each of them with second degree murder.” Their victim was a Tech Sergeant stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, and the case remains under investigation. Children are not only the victims of the crime, but are also the perpetrators.

Demetrius Davis was shot and killed on the 1st of October; “Police say both men were involved in a fistfight in a front yard when one pulled out a handgun and shot Davis multiple times then took off running,”. [sic] In these instances the identity of the  assailants is ‘known,’ in the formal sense. However, in the general sense, gun violence in Shreveport has become so commonplace that the victims and their shooters obtain almost complete anonymity. Ask the next three people you see to name the last three people shot in their community. Observe the root of our failure in real time. defines the word ‘desensitization,’ or “the act of desensitizing,” as

A behavior or modification technique, used especially in treating phobias, in which panic or other undesirable emotional response to a given stimulus is reduced or extinguished, especially by repeated exposure to that stimulus.  

Is this the right word? Is our ignorance willful, or is it conditioned? Whatever the answer, these events no longer seem to trigger a visible emotional response beyond the immediate setting. While the families of the lost and wayward alike are alone in their suffering, the rest of the world moves on, often with little more than a heavy sigh. The phrase ‘modification technique’ is an evocative one, which challenges us on a philosophical level. The process of modifying is surely occurring, and we are surely subject to its effects. If to know a thing is to know its works, then there is perhaps a great modifier, like Adam Smith’s invisible hand , which operates on our conscious and unconscious perceptions in ways that “reduce or extinguish” our value of life.

On October 9th, the Shreveport Times reports that Christopher Robert Washington, was “shot and killed after an apparent altercation in Shreveport’s neighborhood...[on the] 2800 block of West Jordan.” On October 11th, the Arklatex Homepage, reports that “Casey Cawthorne...allegedly shot 20-year old Anthony Jenkins during an argument...When Police arrived they found Jenkins and Cawthorne lying in the street with gunshot wounds.” A week later, “Police in Dallas county arrested 33 year old Christian Combs,” the man responsible for the slaying of Demetrius Davis. Now turn the paper over and try to remember the names mentioned in this paragraph. Odds are, most readers will recall Davis, or Cawthorne, but not both. Few will recall more than two to three names. Many readers will recall none of them. And virtually no one who reads this is likely to remember those names in a week. 

A difficult idea emerges. Even when we are paying attention and involved, we are not readily capable of obtaining and retaining, let alone reciting, large quantities of specific, meaningful information in a single try, though we are usually presented with the fleeting details of these events in single, passing headlines. We are even less likely to internalize certain kinds of information which is accompanied by stressors, unless it is directly germane to our own immediate narrative. Compounding matters, the process of desensitization is at work, reducing the potency of these details in proportion to their frequency. So even this scholarly attempt to raise awareness will, in some subtle way, contribute toward a tendency to look away. 

Two things are present in each of these cases. The first is conflict. The second is a gun. The solutions to these problems, therefore, must be at least twofold in conception: we must address human nature itself to find better ways to resolve a dispute, and we must address the externalities such as supply, demand, and regulation to change the way guns become available to humans. These are no small tasks, and are quite interrelated. For instance, laws and the economy affect human nature perhaps as much as the other way around. Like guns, every human is inherently dangerous. The second amendment effectively legitimizes this reality as a matter of self preservation, not just of individuals, but of the nation: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It is not the gun itself, but the human capacity for lethality which is preserved as ultimate regulator of government. 

Wayward or broken governments aside, there are many other factors in play here as well. KEEL reports on 2 October that a man began firing at officers near Creswell Ave, led them on a chase to his home near Olive St., and that “investigators believe that the man may have been high on drugs during their encounter.” The area in which these events took place is full of old, poorly maintained homes rented by people with little to no income, interspersed with large, beautiful homes with manicured lawns and wealthy owners. There is economic disparity driven by a heritage of both institutionalized racism and a general permissiveness toward crime and corruption. There is the degraded relationship between young men of color and law enforcement which reflects an evolving overall breakdown in trust between the community and its servants. There is the complex and oppressive weight of drug law colliding with a young person’s primal urges toward independence, experimentation, and self-preservation. There is the biological “fight-or flight” reflex in which a sudden rush of adrenaline clouds the judgement and reduces one’s perception of choice to a primitive duality. 

But there is something more, as well. There is culture, and it is hands-down the most pervasive element. A Yelp article on the 3rd of October lists “The Best 10 Gun/Rifle Ranges in Shreveport.” In first place is Shooters USA, in Bossier City. It has a four-star rating and a testimonial which reads “I shot a firearm for the very first time here! I had a good time and it was inexpensive fun!” The implications are that those who have not participated in the culture can begin to do so (the survival of any business model depends on its ability to draw in new markets), and that participating the culture is enjoyable (it will produce a neurochemical reward). Heroin dealers employ a pretty similar market strategy. Moreover, Shreveport is home to a special brand of rap music which only the last capital of the Confederacy can produce: Ratchet rap. Jada Durden traces its origin to Anthony Mandigo in 1999; Mandigo attributes the term to his mother. Durden quotes Shreveport DJ  WilliE BooM. who defines ratchet as "an extension of hip-hop, told from the streets of Louisiana. Laced with moderate tempos, riveting high hats, pocket snares, hand claps in da 16ths, hypnotic synthesizers and keyboard fills, humorous catch phrases and that bayou bottom bass. Bouncy and lyrically infused with the reality and struggle of the streets." 

Durden provides a sample, which she attributes to Lil Boosie: 

Now where Big Poppa at? You know he ratchet too. You know he take them X pills and pop 'em two by two. She in the club jigging, like she a classy chick. She on the wall posted up. You know you ratchet. 

In about forty five words, Boosie alludes to a culture of prostitution, drug abuse, the notoriety of indulgence and excess, and misogyny. With such influential exposure, Shreveport acquired the moniker “Ratchet City,” a point of pride among local artists. A culturalist would argue that these forms of self expression are merely extensions of the cultural realities, and can be explained by the historical experience of the community concerned; a structuralist might argue, with equal plausibility, that these forms of art contribute to the conveyance and consumption of the attitudes which they promote and endorse. Much like the process of desensitization, the causality is cyclical. Art informs man, who so-inspired, creates art. 

The bedrock of our cultural relationship with guns is the debatable premise that guns are necessary to protect life and property. On October 7th, Fox 8 reported the headline “Homeowner fatally shoots 1 of 2 suspects during burglary in progress.” A vigilant citizen and responsible gun owner in action punishes one thief with death, while armed police officers detain the other in pursuit of due process. The implied message to criminals is that crime can result in a loss of life and/or liberty. To policy hounds, it is vindication of the second amendment. To everyone else, it clouds the issue and reinforces existing biases. The truth is that everyone who shoots another human believes in the moment that their actions are in some way justified. The outcomes are far more complicated. 

These various cultural elements in the aggregate are producing more gun victims than home-defense heroes. A Shreveport Times article tells the tale with another tragic headline: “13 year-old sought in pizza delivery driver’s death.” A confidential source acquainted with local law enforcement asserts that police are working that kid for nine other murders. If that turns out to be true, it just might rock the nation out of its stupor. Americans preach and practice the gospel of “go big or go home,” and an adolescent serial killer is just about the one thing Netflix hasn’t tried yet. The real danger is that it will be just another brick in the wall of our cynicism. A new low to be scratched and and inevitably penetrated further. The question isn’t how much worse can things get, it is what universe is worse an acceptable course of events? 

A news clip on the Arklatex Homepage reports that on the 22nd of October, three people were standing outside their home on Mertis when a suspect in a grey truck pulled up and “fired dozens of shots,” sending at least one to the hospital. The Shreveport Times reports in an article from 29 October that police responding to a call on Linear Street found “an 18-year old male...suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. He was pronounced deceased on the scene.”  On October 25, Gary Stacy was arrested for the murder of a 38 year old victim on Martin Luther King. Armed citizens are clearly not a reliable deterrent to gun crime. In fact, all evidence points to armed citizens as the primary cause of gun violence. In case the reader hasn’t noticed, all of these examples so far have been limited to just the month of October. 

In November, the trend continues. On the first day of this writing, an article posted to the website has a headline which reads “Man crawls for help after being shot early Monday in Shreveport.” He was shot in Caddo Heights, and went home to call 9/11. The Gun Violence Archive lists a gun related injury yesterday on Darien St. KEEL reports that a man was shot three times on Lakeshore Drive just a few nights ago. On November 3rd, KSLA reports “just before 11:00 pm on Friday night, Shreveport Police responded to a shots fired call in the 5900 block of Canal Street in west Shreveport. The victim, Darien Adams, was discovered with at least two gunshot wounds to his upper body.” KTBS reports that on the 5th of November two men “were sitting inside a vehicle [on Waggoner Ave] when one or more people approached them and started shooting.” On the 22nd of November, 

A man lying on the front porch of a vacant residence on Alma Street was reported to police. Upon arrival,officers found the man suffering from what appeared to be a gunshot wound to the upper body. The man, later identified by the Caddo Parish Coroner's Office as 18-year-old Xavier Thomas, was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Dozens of scholarly works have been published on the effects of gun violence on victims, families, and communities. Each year, some mass tragedy inspires a hashtag, which is the modern-day equivalent of a gun reform movement. The “#NeverAgain” campaign which originated with survivors of the Parkland shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida is just one example. According to an article written following the March for Our Lives demonstration in Washington D.C. which describes a rally held at a local school: 

In 2016, 77 percent of all homicides in Washington, DC, were committed with a gun, and Thurgood Marshall is located in one of the most dangerous zip codes in the city. In the past two years, the Sixth and Seventh Police Districts, which cover the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, recorded 154 homicides and 829 assaults with a deadly weapon in which a gun was used. By comparison, the Second Police District, which encompasses a geographical area about as large as the Sixth and Seventh combined but also has a richer and whiter population, saw just five homicides and gun assaults over the same period. 

The internet is littered with well-intentioned and encouraging predictions about the success these students will surely find as they raise their voices and demand change. But in spite of their exuberance and the noblesse and gravity of their charge, they are joining an old caravan marching up a tall hill. An Atlantic article (published just one month before the Nation article) suggests that change is unlikely, and what progress is possible is mediocre at best: 

If anything moves on the gun front, expect it to be minor. The measure widely seen as having the best chance at passage aims to improve background checks for gun purchases. But to be clear: Congress is not looking to close the so-called gun-show loophole in a move toward universal background checks. 

If the prospects of D.C. cleaning up its own act are limited, so too are the hopes of it having any meaningful impact on conditions in Shreveport, or anywhere else for that matter, and Louisiana's gun problems are severe with respect to the nation. In 2016, the Shreveport Times reported data from which ranked the state second in the U.S. for “most gun violence,” with “19.3 firearm deaths per 100,000 people,” annually, and “9,448” total gun-related deaths from 2005-2014.” A NOLA article from September of that year claims “Louisiana had the highest murder rate per capita among all states in the country last year [2015], a streak the state has maintained every year since 1989...” It is no coincidence that Shreveport’s struggles parallel these results. In October, KEEL reported another study from which listed Shreveport as the worst city to live in Louisiana: 

Shreveport has the weakest job market of any large city in Louisiana,” the report says. “The annual unemployment rate of 6.6% in Shreveport is higher than the comparable state rate of 6.1% and the national rate of 4.9%. As is the case in several other Louisiana cities, jobs are disappearing in Shreveport. Overall employment fell by 2.4% in the city from 2014 to 2016, even as total employment climbed 3.5% nationwide over the same period. 

As with the processes of desensitization and cultural decline, these economic conditions are cyclical. A lack of civic investment leads to unemployment and underemployment in which the poorest neighborhoods are consistently the hardest hit. This leads to increases in criminal activity, blight, and homelessness, which in turn drives away investors. Exacerbating matters is the phenomenon known as “white flight,” in which, generally speaking, once a noticeable reversal in property values is observed, people of means within the communities affected seek to protect their own estates by cashing out and taking those means elsewhere. These trends tend to be devastating to the municipal revenue streams which govern critical local services such as education, infrastructure, and security. As these dry up, the process of decline become terminal. 

The paths toward rehabilitation become prohibitively unprofitable, and the downward spiral cannot be stopped. The irony is that as places go, Shreveport was once potentially one of the country’s greatest opportunities for wealth. The region known as the “Sportsman’s Paradise” is saturated with gorgeous timber and alluvial farmland. It is surrounded on all sides by oil and natural gas fields. And it rests in the nexus of major trade routes between the Port of New Orleans and Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi. It has a rich and intriguing history and is among the most diverse places on the planet outside of a European metro-station. It produces talented sports figures, musicians, authors, and artists, as well as and entrepreneurs of all persuasions, and is home to the nation’s third largest air force base. By contrast, the magnitude of these structural advantages speaks to the dismal extent of the city’s failure and the weight of the forces contributing to the decline. 

We have discussed many facets of the complexity surrounding this issue, but at least one point remains to be made, and it is likely the most important. This experience, no matter how common or widely shared, is deeply personal. Everyone who speaks to the subject has something meaningful to contribute. My own uncle was carjacked at gunpoint at the neighborhood Circle-K on Stratmoor. My best friend was robbed at gunpoint in Highland during a drug-deal-gone-wrong. My former co-worker was Robert Earl Walker, the man who murdered his employer in an apartment complex in Bossier. He and I had disputes on the job, and I was  the reason he was fired from the job he had just before the last job he would ever have. I was still on that job when I learned of the events, and was profoundly shaken by the thought of how close I might have been to being a victim of gun crime. My nine year old son attends an elementary school which, just this year, decided to install a tall wrought-iron fence around the perimeter as a deterrent to the kind of mass-school-shootings which seem to have become an endemic feature of the American experience. We haven’t even begun teaching him about sex and drugs yet. But he knows why that fence was built. 

The quote “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” is often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi. Perhaps humanity has been missing the point of this quote even after all of these years. What if Gandhi wasn’t making a metaphorical allusion to blindness caused by the gouging out of the eyes of the whole fallible, judgmental, temperamental human race? What if Gandhi observed the relationship between violence and attention, and saw them in them a causality? Humans are fascinated by death in art, and will flock to see the most violent movies and revel in the gory depictions of the utmost depravity. But time has shown that humans tend to have an altogether different response to death in reality. Though expression of this tendency varies widely with culture, the hallmarks include shutting down communication (funerals are quite silent affairs, mostly), diversion and deferral (humans would rather pay attention to other things, or re-brand grief as joy, etc), and denial (humans simply refuse to acknowledge the fact of a tragedy). People who see violence are therefore unwilling to take responsibility for their own role in permitting it to happen, and will ‘gawk’ with impotence instead of confronting a violent person or seeking help from law enforcement, because they are afraid they too will incur wrath otherwise. 

The popular, psychedelic blues-rock legend Pink Floyd has a song which succinctly 
describes this crisis as the “turning away”:

On the turning away /From the pale and downtrodden /And the words they say Which we won't understand /"Don't accept that what's happening /Is just a case of others' suffering /Or you'll find that you're joining in The turning away" /It's a sin that somehow/Light is changing to shadow 
And casting it's shroud over all we have known/ Unaware how the ranks have grown /Driven on by a heart of stone /We could find that we're all alone /In the dream of the proud ...[abridged]... No more turning away /From the weak and the weary/ No more turning away/ From the coldness inside /Just a world that we all must share /It's not enough just to stand and stare /Is it only a dream that there'll be no more turning away? 

Another famous quote is attributed to Edmund Burke, a pioneering figure in western conservatism: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” What all three of these admonitions have in common is that they challenge the audience to see themselves as parts of the solution, and that complaisance is not a position of neutrality. Failure to take action is tantamount to complicity. Whether that solution, for each person, lay in advocacy, scholasticism, regulation, or even prayer, one thing is for certain: each of these roles springs from the same fountain of acknowledgement. We cannot alter our perceptions and appetites without first confronting them as they are. We cannot form a more perfect union by mixing apathy with sentiment. We cannot be there for our fellow humans if we refuse to see their tears and hear their cries and be moved by them to action. We do not honor the dead by forgetting them. 

1 Whittington, Miranda. “Police identify woman shot in Shreveport; infant also wounded,” KSLA News 12. 9 (October, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November).
2 Cook, Nancy. “Suspects sought after mom and baby shot while sleeping,” Arklatex Homepage. (09 October, 2018). [ 10679718] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
3 KLFY Newsroom. “2 teens charged in murder of Airman stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base,” KLFY. (2 October, 2018). [ 37246] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
4 Ibid. 
5 KSLA Staff. “Coroner identifies man killed during fistfight in west Shreveport,” KSLA News 12. (1 October, 2018) [] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
6 “Desensitization,” [] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
7 See Smith, Adam. Wealth of Nations, 1776. 
8 “Victim named in Queensborough shooting,” Shreveport Times. (8 October, 2018). [ 02/] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
9 Henderson, Nikki. “Man Faces attempted murder charge in Shreveport shooting,” Arklatex Homepage. (11 October, 2018). [ 1516881048] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
10 “Updated: Gunman arrested in Dallas County,” KTBS 3. (1 October, 2018). [ 1516881048] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
11 See Darrow, Clarence. Crime and Criminals: Address to Prisoners in the Chicago Jail/ 1902; Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle, 1904; and Bloom, Howard, The Lucifer Principle, 1995.
12 Library of Congress. “United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court.” [] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
13 Parker, Matt. “Man Fires Shots At Shreveport Police, Leads Officers on Chase,” KEEL. (2 October, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
14 See Henrici, Holice. Shreveport: The Beginnings, 1985; Burton, Willie. On the Black Side of Shreveport, 1994; and Du Bois, W.E.B.. Black Reconstrucion:An Essay Toward a History of the Part which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880. 1935. 

15 “The Best 10 Gun/Rifle Ranges in Shreveport, LA,” Yelp. [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
16 Ibid. 
17 Durden, Jada. “Ratchet Rap still leaves its mark,” Shreveport Times. (19 February, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November). 
18 Ibid. 19 Ibid. 20 Ibid. 
21 See Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practise, 2000. 
22 Heyen, Curtis. “Homeowner fatally shoots 1 of 2 suspects during burglary in progress,” Fox 8. (7 October, 2018).
23 “13 year-old sought in pizza delivery driver’s death,” Shreveport Times, (14 November, 2018). [ -driver-shreveport/2008176002/] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
24 “Drive-by shooting in Shreveport; victim shot in the head,” Arklatex Homepage. (22 October, 2018). [ 54/1541356749] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
25 “18 year-old killed in Sunday shooting in Shreveport,” Shreveport Times. (29 October, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
26 “Arrest made in fatal shooting in Shreveport,” Shreveport Times, (24 October, 2018). [ 92002/] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
27 Harrington, Jessica. “Man crawls for help after being shot early Monday in Shreveport,” Newscenter. (26 November, 2018). [ ort.html] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
28 Ibid. 
29 “11-25-2018, Louisiana Shreveport 1-1,” Gun Violence Archive. (25 October, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
30 “Man injured in Saturday shooting in Shreveport,” KEEL. (26 November, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
31 KSLA Staff, “Man fighting for life after overnight shooting,” KSLA. (3 November, 2018)/ [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
32 “One dead, one wounded in overnight Shreveport shooting,” KTBS. (5 November, 2018). [ a8a8-ab46c7d31467.html] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 

33 “18-year old shot and killed wednesday in Shreveport,” Shreveport Times. (22 November, 2018). [ ews/crime/2018/11/22/18-year-old-shot-and-killed-wednesday-shreveport/2088777002/+&cd=5&hl=en&ct=clnk&g l=us] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
34 See Garbarino, J., CP Bradshaw, and JA Vorrasi, The Future of Children, 2002; Cook, PJ., and J Ludwig. Gun Violence: The Real Costs, 2000; Saltzman, LE., PW O’Carroll, and ML Rosenberg. Weapon involvement and injury outcomes in family and intimate assaults, 1992; and Kleck, G. Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America. 2017. 
35 Ibid. 36 Zornick, George. “The gun-control movement has never been able to talk about race-until now.,” The Nation. (3 April, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November). 
36 Zornick, George. “The gun-control movement has never been able to talk about race-until now.,” The Nation. (3 April, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November).
37 Cottle, Michelle. “Baby Steps for Gun Reform,” The Nation. (03 March, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
38 Louisiana ranks 2nd among states for most gun violence,” Shreveport Times. (17 June, 2016). [ 34198/] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
39 Evans, Beau. “Louisiana tops murder rate again, new FBI data shows.” NOLA. (27 September, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018).
40 Wright, Robert J. “New Study Says Shreveport ‘Worst Place to Live’ in Louisiana.” KEEL. (8 October, 2018). [] (accessed 26 November, 2018). 
41 See Harkness, Steven B. “Bayou Economy: An Exploration of Bayou-Generated and Bayou-Sustaining Industries;” and “Tenants of the Hermitage: Louisiana’s Transition from Whig-Republican to Confederate Democrat During the Jacksonian Era.” 2015-2016. []

42 Roy, Carolyn. “Fired maintenance man charged in shooting death of apartment manager,” KSLA. (10 October, 2012). [] (accessed 26 November, 2012). 
43 May, Gerry. “Historic Shreveport school considers fence to keep trouble out,” KTBS. (1 March, 2018). [ le_57fa7012-1db5-11e8-a802-cf95ed663988.html] (accessed 26, November, 2018). 
44 See;; and 45 See the entire SAW franchise, LionsGate, 2004-2010.

46 Gilmore, David and Anthony Moore. “On The Turning Away,” Pink Floyd: A Momentary Lapse in Reason. Columbia Records, 1987. 47 Bartlett, John. Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. 14th ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1968).

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