SOTG 246 - Visit New Orleans, You Probably Won’t Die

[Photo Source: Paul Markel/City of New Orleans]

The Professor took recent trip to the Big Easy to see for himself the state of the city. He is back to report to you the efforts the city is putting forth to fight the record-breaking murder rate. Some believe that spending more money is the answer.

Our SWAT Fuel Warrior of the Week wants to talk about “CLP”. Apparently, cleaning, lubricating, and protecting your firearms has now become some kind of controversial matter. We have all that and more. Listen louder.



New Orleans City Council members have taken the next step to schedule a citywide vote on whether to raise sales taxes in the French Quarter to support public safety measures in the popular tourist destination.

If all goes as planned, voters will decide on Oct. 24 whether to add a quarter-cent sales tax dedicated to paying for more police patrols, special security details, civilian patrols and a continued state police presence in the Vieux Carré.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has estimated the tax would raise about $2 million. Officials have also billed it as a key attraction to convince tourism and hospitality businesses to continue shelling out another $2.5 million a year to finance similar public safety efforts.

The council last month created a “French Quarter Economic Development District,” essentially a special taxing district to allow for the sales tax hike proposal. Only voters within that district will be able to weigh in on the tax proposal.

A few French Quarter residents told the council Thursday (May 7) they were excited about the tax plan, given that beefed up patrols have cut down on robberies and petty crime in the neighborhood.

“We can walk the streets of the Quarter feeling much safer than we did three months ago,” resident Bryan Drude said.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly indicated the election date was set. The council’s next vote will officially schedule the election. The tax amount was also updated to reflect the correct figure.


New Orleans’ year-to-date murder tally hit 100 on Thursday morning (July 9), 55 days sooner than a year ago, and 101 late Thursday night. The grim triple-digit milestone had not been reached until the first week of September in each of the previous two years.

The City Hall chest-thumping that followed three consecutive years of declining murder totals has been muted this year, as officials and observers privately concede a fourth annual decline doesn’t appear to be in the cards for 2015. Another fatal shooting late Thursday night in the Lower 9th Ward appeared to be New Orleans’ 101st murder in 190 days, leaving the city on a pace to finish this year with 194 murder victims. That would be the second-highest total of the past eight years.

New Orleans recorded 199 murders in 2011, before the three-year decline brought 193 in 2012, 156 in 2013, and 150 in 2014 – the city’s lowest murder count since 1971. But last year’s 100th murder wasn’t logged until Sept. 1.

“Nobody can be satisfied with where the numbers are now,” New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said in an exclusive interview with | The Times-Picayune. “It’s way too high.”

Criminologist Peter Scharf, an adjunct professor at the LSU School of Public Health, predicts a 2015 New Orleans murder tally of 185-190. “It’s not a statistical blip,” he said of the year’s bloody first half.

Scharf said he believes this year’s spike could have been averted if police manpower, stronger prevention models and targeted tactics had been deployed last summer, when he said rising murder-risk indicators started to appear. Among the most worrisome trends he saw last year were the continued attrition of NOPD manpower, budgets strangled by consent decree costs and cuts in federal funding for crime prevention, neighborhoods destabilized by gentrification, changes in the drug trade, political control of the NOPD and what he termed the “limited outputs and results” of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s NOLA For Life murder-reduction initiative.

“The main question for the city and NOPD may be, ‘What now?'” Scharf said. “With fiscal and manpower resources, trust in NOPD and political capital in short supply, alternatives might be limited.”

Gang-related killings still decreasing

Harrison, however, said one of the bright spots in the gloomy year has been continued success with one of NOLA For Life’s primary goals – a reduction in gang-related violence. According to NOPD statistics, only 24 percent of this year’s murders to date have been gang-related, down from 42 percent last year.

“We are decreasing in the group- and gang-violence related murders,” Harrison said. “We’re happy about that, because that shows us that our NOLA For Life murder-reduction strategy is working on its targeted group. The city is offering a better way of life and a way out of violent crime to young men. A lot of them have taken the city up on it and are doing well. And then there are some that perhaps still want to engage in this life of violent crime.”

But rather than gang violence, Harrison said what seems to be fueling this year’s murder surge is an increase in domestic violence cases ending in death, armed robberies resulting in fatal shootings, and close-quarters killings related to narcotics transactions gone awry.

“We’re seeing, more and more, (murder) happening inside of vehicles, inside of confined spaces like houses and apartments,” Harrison said. “There’s an increase in murders where the shooter was in very close proximity and more likely to actually kill the person, as opposed to just shooting and wounding the person. That, too, is worrisome.”

New Orleans not alone

New Orleans, with 101 murders compared to 74 on this date a year ago, is not alone this year among major U.S. cities dealing with a rising murder tide.

A USA Today report noted year-to-date increases in Chicago (203 compared to 171), St. Louis (93 to 58), Milwaukee (80 to 39), New York (161 to 145), Philadelphia (123 to 117), Dallas (68 to 53), Washington D.C. (73 to 62) and Baltimore (155 to 105), where police commissioner Anthony Batts was fired Wednesday. Los Angeles, Indianapolis and San Diego are among a few cities that have seen murders drop midway through 2015, the report said.

“We have in this city a culture of violence that dates back a lot of years,” Harrison said. “The vast majority of people in this city care and have a high regard for human life. But there is a core group of people – very small in number – that have no regard for life. And they are out there committing violent acts. They have it in their mind that they’re going to get away with it, but they will not.”

At present, however, the NOPD’s solve rate for homicides has slipped to 50 percent. Detectives have been overwhelmed by their workload, handling 30 percent more cases this year with a homicide unit that is 25 percent smaller than it was a year ago thanks to various forms of attrition.

“I realize they’re short,” Harrison said. “But as the CEO, I have to balance that urgency against the shortage in the Sex Crimes Unit, or the shortage in the districts where response times are important, or things like the SWAT team or Major Anti-Gang Unit, who are very short. All of those are areas of urgency. And it’s a daily balance to make sure the department is functioning and running well.”

Some murders hit close to home

Besides the increased frequency of murders – including 12 in the last 12 days – the NOPD has had to cope with several murder cases in recent months that exacted a high emotional toll on investigators. Among them:

May brought the disturbing deaths of two young children killed in a murder-suicide perpetrated by their mother Michelle McCullum, and the still-unsolved ambush killing of HANO police officer James Bennett Jr. as he worked a security detail in Central City.
June saw the parents of NOPD Officer Raymond Ambrose III die in another apparent murder-suicide. The couple was found on June 20, only three hours after NOPD Officer Daryle Holloway was shot to death while attempting to transport prisoner Travis Boys to the parish jail, a murder that rocked the department and city.
And on July 3, the department was sent reeling again as word spread that Milan Arriola, daughter of New Orleans Fire Department Capt. Roy Arriola Jr. and highly respected NOPD major-case narcotics Officer Imani Ruffins, had been killed in a drive-by shooting in Gentilly. She was a passenger in a car driven by a man believed to have been the intended target of accused gunman Will Reed.
“The officers, even though they’ve seen tragedy – and a lot of it in a short time – we’ve rallied around each other,” Harrison said. “While we’ve experienced a lot of tragedy that’s very up close and personal to us, and that affects us, it seems to have made us more focused. … The police officers of this department are as resilient as the citizens of this city.”

But is the city capable of regaining a handle on the body count, before the gains of the past three years become just another cyclical memory? Scharf said he has doubts.

“As late as early in 2015, the mayor made claims about results of the murder-reduction program,” Scharf said. “The notion that murder totals were lower than any time since 1971 ignored the reality that in 1971 New Orleans had about 570,000 citizens (compared to an estimated 384,000 last year), and the 2014 murder rate per 100,000 was far higher than in that year.

“Politicians are interesting to observe. When murder rates go down, they are positivists who claim their actions caused the decline. When murder rates go up, they become sociologists finding a variety of explanations for the increases.


As thousands of Mardi Gras spectators along St. Charles Avenue cheered and raised their hands in hopes of snagging a coveted shoe from a Krewe of Muses float rider, an argument between two groups ended with gunshots and chaos and two bodies lying on the sidewalk of a corner familiar to such violence.

It may never be known what started the fight Thursday night (Feb. 12) at St. Charles and Erato Street. But in its wake two young men are dead, and a third facing a possible life sentence as the accused gunman in a shooting forever linked to this year’s Mardi Gras season.

“It’s a horrific thing,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said at a press conference Friday afternoon. “We’ve seen this iteration of violence before, where young men get in an argument over something that’s seemingly not worth having even a fist fight over, and it turns into unfortunately a lethal set of circumstances.”

A beefed-up police presence — NOPD Chief Michael Harrison said at least 20 officers were in the “immediate area” — made for a quick response when gunfire erupted around 10 p.m. The crowd scrambled for cover, but parade floats continued by as emergency crews worked on the victims.

Peter Dabney, 21, was rushed to surgery with a gunshot wound to the chest. He never made it out. Ivan Williams, 22, was hit in the neck and died a few hours after Dabney, authorities said.

The man police say pulled the trigger, John Hicks, was being held Friday on a $1 million bond. The 19-year-old, a student at Landry Walker High School, was initially booked with second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and illegally using a firearm during a crime of violence on a parade route. Those charges have since been upgraded to two counts of second-degree murder, following the second victim’s death.

An attorney for the Hicks family declined to comment on the charges. But 17-year-old Montrell Mathis, a family friend who was in court Friday morning during Hicks’ bond hearing, said she could not believe the charges against her friend.

Muses shooting map 2015
View full sizeDan Swenson, | The Times-Picayune

“When (the judge) stood up to read those charges, I thought, ‘Oh my God!'” Mathis said. “He’s smart. He wouldn’t fire a gun at a parade. Those charges don’t fit him,” she said of Hicks.

Authorities say an officer in the area heard the shots Thursday night and saw Hicks running away wearing a black and white hooded sweatshirt and holding an unknown object under his sweatshirt. The officer watched Hicks toss an object into bushes along the 1700 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to Harrison. He said the object turned out to be a handgun recovered by officers. By the end of the block, and with additional officers in pursuit, Hicks was captured.

Hicks admitted to shooting the two men, police said, and a test seeking gunshot residue on Hicks returned a “presumptive positive result.”

Harrison and Landrieu praised the police work, with Landrieu characterizing the response as “picture perfect.”

“I don’t think they could have done any better than they did last night,” the mayor said.

8 shootings along parade routes since 2004

The area around Thursday’s shooting has been on police radar for some time, Harrison said. As the Krewe of Chaos made its way along St. Charles near Erato in 2012, two teenagers were shot on their legs and a 16-year-old arrested in the shooting.

The 2008 Mardi Gras season saw five shootings near parades, including one man wounded in the arm on St. Charles near Terpsichore Street. During the 2004 Muses parade, a 20-year-old woman was shot and killed and three others wounded in what police at the time called a fight between rival groups of young men.

Outrage from the 2004 shooting reverberated with lawmakers in Baton Rouge, who bolstered penalties for firing a weapon at a parade. Lawmakers upped the ante following the 2012 shooting, changing the law to grant police the authority to arrest someone carrying a firearm along a parade without a permit – even if the weapon had not been used in a crime.

Mardi Gras 2015 parade shooting: Paradegoers still camped out along St. Charles Avenue after fatal shooting
The New Orleans Police Department has arrested 19-year-old John Hicks in the shooting Thursday night (Feb. 12) at the Muses parade that left two men dead. In the aftermath of the shooting paradegoers are still getting their spots for this weekend’s parades along St. Charles Avenue.
On Thursday night, Muses captain Staci Rosenberg was just pulling up to St. Joseph Street aboard the lead float when she got word of the shooting along the parade route. In the ensuing hours, news that two men had died “cast a pall” over the evening for the all-women krewe.

“We all feel terrible. It’s such a tragedy. Our hearts go out the the families of everyone involved,” Rosenberg said Friday.

Shooter and victims knew each other, police say

Authorities believe Hicks and the two victims knew each other, though the exact nature of that relationship remains unclear.

Dabney’s sister said her family is still trying to sort out how, and why, her brother’s life was cut short. “I want to know what started the fight … and what made the weapon come out,” April Dabney, 23, said. “It could have been avoided.”

Peter Dabney spent his entire life in the Central City neighborhood until last month, his sister said, when he moved out of his family’s home and into his own place in the Chalmette area. He was an avid parade-goer, she said, but his construction job kept him from attending any of this year’s parades — until Thursday night.

April Dabney said her brother and Williams were high school friends and practically brothers. “They hung out every day,” she said. “They called each other brothers. I called them both my little brothers.”

New Orleans Police Department, Superintendent, Michael Harrison held a joint press conference with Mayor Mitch Landrieu at NOPD Headquarters about a fatal shooting during Thursday night’s

She said she, too, was in attendance for Muses, but several blocks down St. Charles from where her brother was shot. Someone who knew her brother told her parents, she said, and she received the phone call from her sister delivering the news.

“I was really shocked,” she remembered. “I couldn’t believe what they were telling me.”

She said she raced home then to the hospital, where she managed to catch doctors wheeling her brother into the operating room. “I told him, ‘You’re going to pull through, little bro. I love you,'” she recalled.

It could have been five minutes or five hours, she remembered, but a team of nurses eventually appeared to give the family the news.

“It feels like it’s a dream,” April Dabney said. “I won’t see my brother anymore.

Student of the Gun Podcast Radio Logo1400x1400 Student of the Gun Radio airs every Monday through Thursday  at 9 a.m. EST and can be found by going directly to using mobile devices can follow us with iTunes or Stitcher. SOTG Radio is a Think On! production. Student of the Gun is the #1 source for education, enjoyment and enlightenment of real-world firearms including: training, videos, radio, books and articles. A beginner once, a student for life. Being a Student of the Gun is not about being a novice or beginner. Student of the Gun represents a lifelong journey of education, enlightenment and the enjoyment of firearms. Each episode will introduce the viewer to new and interesting firearms as well as the latest gear to go with them. We will travel throughout the United States, seeking the advice and expertise of the best firearms trainers available. Sometimes deadly serious, sometimes just for fun, Student of the Gun will always strive to educate and entertain our viewers while offering them an insiders’ look at the worlds of firearms.

About the Host

Paul Markel: Host of Student of the Gun Radio

Paul Markel: Host of Student of the Gun Radio

Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a United States Marine, police officer, professional bodyguard, and small arms and tactics instructor. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly 20 years, and has hundreds of articles in print. A regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows, Markel is a subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students, young and old, for decades and has also worked actively with 4H Shooting Sports programs. Markel holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines; nonetheless, he is, and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.

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Jarrad Markel: Co-Host and Producer of Student of the Gun Radio

Jarrad Markel: Co-Host and Producer of Student of the Gun Radio

Not just another pretty face, Jarrad Markel has experience and training beyond his years. Jarrad has been training to be a fighter since elementary school when he first learned the art of collegiate wrestling. Now skilled in Jujitsu, Judo, Muay Thai, Sambo, the Way of the Fighting Pistol and Fighting Rifle, Jarrad is a well-rounded, tactical athlete with several professional MMA fights under his belt. More than a brute, Jarrad has brains as well. He is the lead editor and videographer for Student of the Gun and works directly for Think On! Productions creating a wide variety of video material. In addition, Markel is a skilled web & blog designer, building material for the Internet side of the house.


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Paul G. Markel has worn many hats during his lifetime. He has been a U.S. Marine, Police Officer, Professional Bodyguard, and Small Arms and Tactics Instructor. Mr. Markel has been writing professionally for law enforcement and firearms periodicals for nearly twenty years with hundreds and hundreds of articles in print. Paul is a regular guest on nationally syndicated radio talk shows and subject matter expert in firearms training and use of force. Mr. Markel has been teaching safe and effective firearms handling to students young and old for decades and has worked actively with the 4-H Shooting Sports program. Paul holds numerous instructor certifications in multiple disciplines and a Bachelor’s degree in conflict resolution; nonetheless, he is and will remain a dedicated Student of the Gun.