ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (KLFY) — A pre-schooler was nearly killed Wednesday afternoon when shots were fired near his school. A bullet barrelled through a wall shattering a lunch plate out of his hands.
St. Martinville Police say this type of criminal behavior needs to stop NOW and an innocent person will be killed if this continues. Police Chief Ricky Martin says even though the crime is so shocking, it’s following a troubling trend.
“When it gets to the point where it’s at now, something’s got to give,” Martin told News 10.
Most shootings in St. Martinville happen past midnight, but the most recent was in broad daylight. Two cars shot at each other close enough for a preschool to get hit by the crossfire.
“Because of their stupidity, they could have killed an innocent child, or one of the teachers, or anybody else inside that building,” Chief Martin remarked.
As of 10 P.M. Wednesday, St. Martinville Police have two possible suspects indentified and interviews are underway to make sure there is enough probable cause to issue a warrant. The problem is this won’t be the likely suspects first arrests.
According to Martin, “It’s frustrating because this same group of people have been responsible for more than one shooting.”
Chief Martin says a beef between two families has spiraled into multiple crimes with the families allegedly involved in the city’s last four homicides but bonding out of jail before receiving their sentences.
“People know who these people are, and people are getting fed up,” Martin said. He stated you can’t hide things in a small town.
After St. Martinville’s last homicide, officers were put on double shifts. The department employs 25 people, and Martin says even while targetting high crime areas, they can’t be everywhere at once.
“You can have 100 officers in one part of the city, (but) the bad guys are never going to commit crimes in front of the police,” Chief Martin stated.
When asked what approach can best stop the violent cycle, he stated people need to become accountable for eachother and parents need to be more involved and aware of the activities of those living under their roof.
Chief Martin said current anti-violence events are not enough because they “preach to the choir.” Soon to begin community walks should reach even more people, bringing awareness to those who need it.
“If they don’t want to talk to us, that’s fine, but we’re going to reach out to them, and they’re going to know that we’re walking in their neighborhood. They need to know that there’s a police officer down the street.”
The process to remove these people from the street takes time expressed Chief Martin. He has to make sure his department has put together a strong case before delivering it to the district attorney. Sentencing can take even longer.
“I don’t know what else to tell them other than they’re going to go to jail, and they’re going to go there a very long time, and we’re going to find every charge we can in the criminal handbook to charge them with,” Chief Ricky Martin added.
News 10 spoke with the St. Martin Parish Schools Superintendent Al Blanchard about the incident. Blanchard said he saw Chief Martin’s message and completely agrees. He stated those pre-school children were defenseless.
The staff at the Head Start Center responded correctly when the incidents occurred, getting students to a safe place Superintended Blanchard added. “I can’t express how relieved we are that everyone was safe,” he said.
Students will participate virtually at the Headstart site for the next two days to allow everyone time to process what happened. They will return Wednesday after the Mardi Gras break.