Law enforcement cracking down on guns across Capital Region

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Weapons seized during the arrest of six men following an I-10 traffic stop by West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Photo courtesy of WBRSO

PORT ALLEN, La. (West Side Journal) – A coalition that includes the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, all six municipalities and the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office aims to halt the recent surge in gun violence throughout the area.

Enhanced patrols will take to the streets and highways throughout the area as part of a goal to remove violent offenders and their weapons off the streets, Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi said.  

The move comes in the wake of a rash of violence and confiscation of illegal firearms over the last several months.

WBRSO Agents arrest six men on gun charges

On Oct. 6, authorities with the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office confiscated five guns following a traffic stop on I-10. Six local men racked up several gun and drug-related charges. The weapons seized included three handguns and two rifles, according to Agent John Gaudet. 

Authorities charged Damarcus Watts-Bracken of Plaquemine with five counts of supplying a convicted felon with a firearm, five counts of supplying a convicted felon with ammunition and possession of marijuana; Willie McClay of Plaquemine with five counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of marijuana; Gregory McClay of Plaquemine with possession of marijuana; Ebony Gray of Kenner with possession of marijuana; Raheem Seals of Plaquemine with possession of Sched. III (MDMA), possession of a firearm in the presence of CDS, five counts Possession of Firearm by convicted felon and possession of marijuana; and Rashad Seals of Plaquemine with possession of marijuana, five counts of possession of firearm by a convicted felon.

The West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office confirmed one shooting outside the city limits of Port Allen last week, but no charges have been filed.

Iberville Sheriff warns ‘that’s too much lead to be flying’ 

Sheriff Stassi worries it is only a matter of time before an innocent bystander is caught in the middle of a senseless shooting in Iberville parish. 

“We’ve had a lot of shootings here,” he said. “…Nobody killed, but some elderly person or some child will eventually be caught in the crossfire, and my main job here is to prevent that from happening. We’re going to do our part by enhancing the patrols in the high-crime areas, where we’re seeing these incidents are occurring.”

Shootouts in Iberville have left as many as 30 rounds dumped on street corners.

“That’s too much lead to be flying,” Stassi said.

Law enforcement officials have seen a substantial increase in gun violence in the last six weeks.

One recent incident involved shootouts in Plaquemine and White Castle, which led to five arrests.

All of the arrests involved suspects under the age of 30, including two who were 18.

“It definitely has something to do with this age of young people who have these guns, and a lot of it is retaliation over attacks on social media and – believe it or not – putting a person’s name in a rap song,” Stassi said. “They’re disrespecting people in rap songs.”

Stassi said he does not want to see a generation of young people become a statistic.

“We’re a small community, and we have talented young people here, and I want them to do the right thing and use their skills and talents to take care of themselves and their families. We don’t need a body count,” Stassi said.

Stassi said he has also received reports of rental cars being returned with firearms left in the vehicles.

“We’re not talking about your average ‘Saturday Night Special’… some are high-tech assault rifles,” he said. “The moral values have weakened. Some of these guns are stolen out of vehicles… We’re doing everything we can to get these guns out of these hands.”

Stassi said he is a “staunch supporter” of the Second Amendment (The Right to Bear Arms), but communities need to get the weapons out of the hands of violent criminals.

Stassi said the shootings have not yet led to fatalities, but the innocent will ultimately suffer the consequences.

“If someone is shooting at a car, a house is always a much bigger target, and we’ve already heard horror stories of babies being killed in the line of fire,” he said. “You can’t shoot guns this many times and expect that we’re going to continue to be lucky. Our luck will eventually run out.”

Capital City grapples with gun violence as homicide rate soars

 Iberville and East Baton Rouge have seen a dramatic uptick in gun violence recently. Baton Rouge is reeling from the death of 2-year-old  Azariah Thomas, the victim of a senseless shooting rampage last week. 

Baton Rouge’s murder rate has soared in 2020 – up to 104 homicides as of time Tuesday. The capital city finished out 2019 with 97 homicides. Officials in Baton Rouge noted that domestic violence and intimate partner homicides are surging this year – an anticipated side effect of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Monday, seven Baton Rouge men were indicted and arrested on federal gun and drug trafficking charges, U.S. Attorney Brandon Fremin announced.

The defendants were charged in separate indictments and arrested on Oct. 13 on a variety of gun and drug-related charges. The grand jury charged Tyjiri Anderson, 21, with possession of a firearm and ammunition by a convicted felon; Benjamin Fields, 20, with receipt of a firearm by a person under indictment; Albert Stewart III, 26, with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; Trayneil T. Gaines, 25, with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; Charles Anthony Brown, 21, with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon; Marvin D. White, 37, with conspiracy to distribute heroin, distribution of heroin, and possession with the intent to distribute heroin; and Lorenzo D. Cain, 27, with conspiracy to distribute heroin, distribution of heroin, and possession with the intent to distribute heroin.

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The West Side Journal, located in Port Allen, Louisiana serves as the official journal of West Baton Rouge Parish. The newspaper’s roots run deep in the West Baton Rouge community, as the earliest dates of publication reach back to the mid-1800s.

The current editor is Breanna Smith, an alumna of Louisiana State University's Manship School of Mass Communication and native of Baton Rouge. Contributing writers to the Journal are members of the West Side community.