Police work to break ‘us vs. them’ mindset

This story was published on page A1 of The Advocate on July 29, 2012. It was the sixth part in the paper’s series ‘A Community at Risk’ which looks at why Baton Rouge is one of the nation’s most violent cities. This story examines the role law enforcement plays in the crime rate and how the community’s distrust of police hampers murder investigations. 

Fear of retaliation, distrust of police widespread

BY ROBERT STEWART AND NAOMI MARTIN

Gertrude Cobb still does not know who shot and killed her son more than two years ago.

David Cobb, 16, was shot during a party at a BREC park on Woodpecker Street on March 27, 2010. A fight broke out and bullets started flying, one of which hit Cobb in his spine. He later died in a hospital.

The party had attracted hundreds of people over several hours, Gertrude Cobb said. Despite the potential for eyewitnesses, the case has gone cold in the Baton Rouge Police Department’s file.

“There were too many people out there not to know what happened,” Cobb said, her voice breaking.

The silence surrounding David Cobb’s slaying illustrates a struggle common to many homicide investigations in Baton Rouge. Police say they need the public’s help in finding murder suspects, but the public, for various reasons, won’t always cooperate. Read more of this post

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Survivor: ‘It’s all just so crazy’

This story was published on page A1 of The Advocate on July 30, 2012.  

Of all the movie theaters to pass on a road trip from Seattle to Baton Rouge, Bonnie Kate Pourciau and her best friend ended up in the Aurora, Colo., midnight screening of the new Batman movie July 20, the night a gunman opened fire on the audience.

Pourciau, who was shot in the knee, was one of 58 who were wounded. Twelve others died in the massacre.

After flying home to Baton Rouge via air ambulance Thursday, Pourciau said she is preparing for a fourth surgery on her knee at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital.

Just 10 days ago, Pourciau and her best friend, Elizabeth Sumrall, were hiking at Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. Now, Pourciau said she knows it will be many months before she can walk again.

“It’s all just so crazy,” said Pourciau, 18, as she lay Saturday in her hospital bed surrounded by flowers and cards. “I was passing through for one night and just happened to see a movie that should’ve been sold out in a town that I didn’t even know existed.” Read more of this post

Baton Rouge women’s peaceful reststop in Aurora turns into setting of horror

This story was published as a sidebar to the A1 story on July 24 which covered President Obama’s visit to one of the shooting victims from Baton Rouge. 

As Elizabeth Sumrall pored over a map a month ago in Seattle, planning her cross-country road trip home to Baton Rouge, she decided Aurora, Colo., would be a more peaceful place than nearby Denver for her and her best friend to spend the night.

“I heard the parking was terrible in Denver,” Sumrall said Sunday.

So last week, Sumrall, 23, and her best friend, Bonnie Kate Pourciau, 18, embarked on their road trip to Yellowstone National Park and Mount Rushmore.

After arriving at their Aurora hotel Thursday, their plans took a fateful turn when the women decided to go see the midnight screening of the latest Batman movie. Read more of this post

President Obama visits Baton Rouge shooting victim in Colorado

This story was published on page A1 of The Advocate on July 24, 2012.  Here is the sidebar that details how the two Baton Rouge women ended up in Aurora on that fateful night. 

After a long day of surgery followed by visits from doctors, detectives and journalists, shooting victim Bonnie Kate Pourciau, of Baton Rouge, was recovering Sunday in her Colorado hospital bed when an unexpected visitor popped his head around her door.

It was President Barack Obama.

“Can I come in?” he asked her.

“I was like, ‘Whoa, there’s the president!’ ” Pourciau said. “It was really cool. I felt so honored. I got to shake his hand and give him a hug. He was very friendly.”

While standing next to Pourciau’s hospital bed, Obama told her the hardest part of his job is visiting Americans who have been wounded, both in wars and in tragedies.

The president had just come from visiting others who were in worse shape than Pourciau, she said.

“It has been traumatic. I still haven’t begun to process all that happened,” Pourciau said of the shooting. “And thinking about everything, it’s a terrible, terrible, awful thing, but God is holding us and he has us in control and we’re gonna be okay.”

Obama told Pourciau she was an inspiration to him and he loved seeing her smile. He told her she was going to bounce back.

“It was so special to be encouraged by him like that,” she said.

Pourciau, 18, was shot in the knee early Friday during one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. Read more of this post

Juvenile fugitives caught — police baffled by Jetson director’s claimed ‘chase’

This story was published in The Advocate on July 9, 2012. 

Authorities found and arrested two juvenile fugitives late Saturday, hours after the facility’s director was placed on administrative leave for engaging in a chase “on his own,” said a spokeswoman Sunday.

Director Daron Brown

The administrator left law enforcement agencies from Baton Rouge to New Orleans confused Sunday after he claimed to have chased an SUV Friday night thought to be carrying two juvenile escapees. Some authorities, however, questioned whether the two-hour, high-speed pursuit even happened.

“Everything was unfounded,” said State Police spokesman Sgt. Len Marie. “We had units set up all over the interstate ready to intercept this vehicle as it came through, but it never came through. We don’t even know for a fact that this guy was ever actually involved in a chase.” Read more of this post

Trust key ingredient to fighting local crime

This news analysis ran on the Opinion page of The Advocate on June 27, 2012. View the page here. Or, on The Advocate’s website here. 

In an unlikely partnership, residents of the city’s crime-plagued 70805 ZIP code, many of whom have long distrusted the Baton Rouge Police Department, are now saying they are ready to help the department in its new efforts to fight violent crime in their neighborhood.

The north Baton Rouge ZIP code area accounts for 30 percent of the city’s homicides but only 13 percent of its population.

The success of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program, or BRAVE, hinges on the ability of the BRAVE unit — made up of five elite officers — to build trust with the community’s law-abiding residents, who are often too afraid to report criminal activity out of fear of retaliation, said Lt. Todd Lee, who helped draft the plan.

Read more of this post

Jurors moved by horrific 911 tape

This story was published in The Advocate on May 21, 2012. 

Prosecutors played a tape recording Saturday of the horrific 911 call that ended with the screams of Patricia Aldridge being shot 13 times by an AK-47, while multiple jurors burst into tears and the defendant, Derrick Gordy, leaned back in his chair and stared straight ahead.

The five-minute tape, recorded on Sept. 30, 2009, started with Aldridge calmly telling the dispatcher that four black male assailants had threatened her son’s life outside their South Sunderland Avenue home. A few minutes later, Aldridge could be heard goading the subjects.

“C’mon, try to hit me … uh huh … c’mon … here they come, here they come,” Aldridge said just before the call suddenly erupted into chilling screams and a barrage of gunfire that lasted between 10 and 30 seconds.

“Ma’am? Ma’am?” the dispatcher asked.

“I’m dead,” Aldridge said, before the sounds of gunfire took over the recording. Read more of this post

Police arrest man during rapper’s trial accused of tweeting threats to DA

This story was published on page A1 of The Advocate on May 9, 2012. 

East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested a 21-year-old man Monday for threatening on Twitter to shoot District Attorney Hillar Moore III outside the trial of rapper Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch, authorities said.

Deputies said they found Dedrick Deandre Green, 14004 Longvue Drive, Baker, sitting in the courtroom Monday afternoon, watching Hatch’s first-degree murder trial.

Green was booked into Parish Prison on felony counts of public intimidation and terrorizing, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

“I got a sniper rifle for Hillar Moore when he walk out the courthouse,” Green posted on Twitter at about 3:40 p.m. Saturday, the affidavit says. Read more of this post

Police link St. Gabriel man to burned gay hairdresser’s corpse through victim’s social media account

This story was published in The Advocate on May 6, 2012. 

East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux announced Thursday the arrest of a suspect in the slaying of a Baton

Rouge hairdresser whose burned body was discovered in the trunk of a car abandoned on the Mississippi River levee.

Gautreaux said events leading up to the murder began Sunday evening when the hairdresser, Roderick White, 33, drove himself to a mobile home in St. Gabriel to meet for the first time with Jason Mascarella, 34, a man he had been chatting with online.


The men had met on either Twitter or Facebook, said Todd Morris, a sheriff’s detective and lead investigator on the case. Read more of this post

After early morning crime spree, robbery suspects arrested

This story was published in The Advocate on April 19, 2012. 

By Adam Lau, The Advocate

Three men were left begging for their lives this week after an armed duo confronted them at gunpoint in separate incidents in the dark, early morning hours outside their Shenandoah homes.

“I was frightened out of my mind,” said Sidney Deloach, 72, who was pistol-whipped and knocked to the ground by the men as he returned home from buying a newspaper about 4:30 a.m. Thursday.

“They both had their guns pointed straight at my head, no more than four or five inches from my head, saying, ‘I’m gonna shoot you,’ ” Deloach said. Read more of this post