The day after a 1-year-old was shot to death in her babysitter’s arms on Saratoga Street sent a cascade of strong emotions coursing through Central City.
At dawn, neighbors awoke to an armed standoff at a Central City home involved in the investigation. The day progressed with an intense burst of grief from the child’s parents and their supporters at Cafe Reconcile, followed by an angry denunciation from city leaders for the lack of information in the case, and ended at dusk with a vigil mourning the slain child.
“She was my world,” said her father, 20-year-old Keion Reed, in a brief public address Friday afternoon. “She was my everything. She was my reason for getting up in the morning.”
‘One of ours’
The little girl, 1-year-old Londyn Samuels, was the daughter of Reed and 22-year-old Andrea Samuels, a graduate of Cafe Reconcile. Samuels had received job training there for several years before landing a full-time job of her own in the hospitality industry, and she had recently returned on a part-time basis as a graduate training, mentoring other “high-risk and disconnected” young people at the restaurant on O.C. Haley Boulevard, said Dave Emond, the cafe’s development director.
Though 1,000 young people have graduated from Cafe Reconcile since it opened in 2000, gun violence has stung the community before. Two years ago, 21-year-old Marvin Watts was shot to death in a car at Walmsley and South Carrollton, not long after the Cafe Reconcile graduate had gotten a job at Restaurant August. “We really thought he’d pulled out of the negativity and destruction, but he was gunned down in his car with an AK-47,” Emond said.
Still, something about the death of Andrea Samuel’s bright-eyed little baby was particularly painful.
“I want this burned in your memories,” said Cafe Reconcile CEO Glen Armantrout. “Don’t ever forget this. She was one of ours.”
Armantrout was joined by Samuels and Reed at Cafe Reconcile for a press conference dominated by a palpable anger and grief.
“So many positive strides are being made in New Orleans, but still some bad eggs are stealing the spotlight,” Armantrout said. “We’ve all got to stand together and stand firm and not accept this.”
“We are tired,” said City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. “We are fed up, and we are frustrated by the lack of love, respect and dignity for life among all people. It’s the few, really making it bad for the many.”
“I’m to the point where we as a community have got to make some changes,” said community activist Barbara Lacen-Keller. “As of 8:30 last night, the war is on.”
Lacen-Keller called for stronger laws to get guns off the streets of New Orleans. But beyond that, she said, what may be needed is more outrage.
“There was a time when we as a community had limits,” Lacen-Keller said. “You didn’t hurt children and women.”
Cantrell noted that she, too, is the mother of a young girl, and that all New Orleanians should sympathize with the unexplainable loss faced by the two young parents.
“You are not alone,” Cantrell said, turning to Andrea Samuels and her voice dropping to a murmur. “I could be in your shoes. You are not by yourself. You are not alone.”
A vigil for Samuels was planned for 6 p.m. at the shooting site, Washington Avenue and South Saratoga.
While neighbors tried to make sense of the tragedy, New Orleans police continued their work of trying to bring its perpetrators to justice.
Shortly after midnight, detectives went to a home in the 2800 block of Lasalle Street to speak to the residents, but they refused to speak with police, and the SWAT team was subsequently sent to the scene, said NOPD Officer Frank Robertson, a departmental spokesman. By 8 a.m., police had made contact with two adult women and one man, and three children were found inside the residence as well, Robertson said. At 9:30 a.m., the streets were reopened, but investigators did not say what they learned.
Later in the day, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas and Mayor Mitch Landrieu said they had received only one tip from CrimeStoppers, despite a $5,000 reward being offered for information.
“This community has got to stand up and see this is completely and totally unacceptable,” Landrieu said, according to a report by our partners at WWL-TV.
The New Orleans Branch NAACP also issued its own statement on the killing, adding its voice to the chorus calling for information:
The New Orleans Branch NAACP sends its prayers and condolences to the family of 13 month old Londyn Samuels. Our prayers also go out for a speedy and complete recovery for Londyn’s 18-year-old babysitter that was also shot.
Those that shot Londyn and her babysitter are urged to turn themselves into the police immediately. If they are afraid, contact the NAACP and the NAACP will accompany them during the process.
Anyone that has any information about who the shooters are, and where they are, should give that information to the police immediately. Persons with information can also call the NAACP with the information and the NAACP will forward the information to the police. The NAACP telephone number is 504-821-3221.
CrimeStoppers can be reached at 822-1111.