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Officials hold press conference to update public on shooting investigation

On Monday morning, officials with several local law enforcement agencies and the city of Bogalusa held a press conference to update the public on the investigation into Saturday’s shooting incident. The conference was held in front of Bogalusa City Hall.

A transcript of the officials’ remarks is as follows:

BOGALUSA MAYOR WENDY PERRETTE: “At this time there is an ongoing investigation regarding the shooting that occurred Saturday night. What we know as of now is that there were a number of people gathering at Martin Luther King and Fourth Street. There was no permit granted for the gathering. The BPD (Bogalusa Police Department) is staffed at this time with five officers per shift to handle complaints across the city. We are encouraging anyone who has information to contact BPD at 732-3611. It is our civic duty to keep the citizens of Bogalusa safe. We need the help of the public to do this. The city has now elicited the help of the parish, the state and federal government to work with us to assure the safety of our citizens.”

PERRETTE: “This is a time when we request the city to come together, not spread rumors, and recognize that every citizen’s safety is our top priority. I ask that everyone understands that we will have an increased law presence in our city, and that citizens cooperate for the greater good of our community. Please keep our city in your prayers. At this time, I’d like to introduce Major Wendell O’Berry.”

BPD MAJOR WENDELL O’BERRY: “Good morning, I am Major Wendell O’Berry with the Bogalusa Police Department. Before I begin, I would like to say that our chief of police, Kendall Bullen, would like to be here. Unfortunately, his father-in-law passed over the weekend, and he could not make it. We’d like to extend our condolences and prayers to Chief Bullen (and his family). This is a press conference to address the mass-casualty shooting that occurred in Bogalusa on Saturday night, May 16, at approximately 9:10 p.m. Local media outlets who are here know who we are, where we are, but for any outside outlets that are here, that are unfamiliar with our location, we’re a small city of approximately 12,000 residents, located in Washington Parish. Which is about 70 miles north of New Orleans. Our department currently consists of 28 active sworn officers.”

O’BERRY: “On this previous Saturday night, shortly before 5 p.m. our officers were dispatched to a traffic accident in the 500 block of Martin Luther King Drive. Upon arrival there, in addition to the accident, officers discovered a large gathering for several blocks, with an estimated crowd of over 500 people. It was learned that the event followed a memorial service for Dominique James, a Bogalusa resident who was recently murdered. Although we extend our condolences to the James family and have been in contact with them during this investigation, there was no permit for this event. Under the current COVID-19 crisis, no permit would have been issued, and our agency was unaware that this was going to take place.”

O’BERRY: “The shift supervisor notified me and I advised him to attempt to call out additional personnel and attempt to safely control the situation. The shift working at that time consisted of five officers. Several other calls for service began coming in throughout the city, unrelated to the gathering. Several people were arrested over the next couple of hours, unrelated to the gathering, and officers were answering emergency calls. The event was monitored as call volume allowed. The gathering continued to grow, and the crowd was estimated to grow to between 500 and 800 people.”

O’BERRY: “At 9:12 p.m., we received 911 calls of shots fired on East Fourth Street and MLK Drive. Upon arrival of officers, shots were still being fired and the scene was chaos. As soon as our officers could make their way to the victims, EMS was called in to begin attempts to help the wounded. During this, a vehicle fled the area. A vehicle crash with injuries occurred, that also had to be dealt with. Several victims from the scene were transported by ambulance, and others by personal vehicles to Our Lady of the Angels Hospital. Some victims were treated there, while others were transported by ambulance or flown by Life Flights, to area trauma centers, for those more critically wounded.”

O’BERRY: “There were 13 victims. Of those, 12 were male, one was female, and their ages ranged from 22 to 45 years of age. Although some were critically wounded, there are no reports of fatalities at this time. And we are unsure if there are possibly other victims who fled the scene, and sought treatment elsewhere. As the situation began, our agency requested assistance from neighboring agencies. Responding to assist were multiple off-duty Bogalusa police officers, the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Varnado Police Department, Louisiana State Police, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Bogalusa Fire Department and Northshore Emergency Medical Services provided assistance on the scene for those wounded.”

O’BERRY: “Our detectives processed the scene, and thus far, have recovered over 50 shell casings of various calibers. Therefore, it is believed that multiple shooters were involved in this incident. We are now partnering with local, state and federal agencies in an extensive investigation to identify and arrest the individuals responsible for this horrible act of violence. And we ask for assistance from any potential witnesses who may have been there, and may be able to help further this investigation.”

O’BERRY: “We have several other individuals here who would like to provide some additional comments. At this time, I would like to introduce Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal.”

WASHINGTON PARISH SHERIFF RANDY SEAL: “Thank you, Major. I appreciate that. Washington Parish and Bogalusa’s better than this. I’m embarrassed that our people are behaving in this manner. And I’m going to encourage the people of the community … Because I know soon that people’s going to want to march. And I understand why they want to march. But we need to walk, we need to walk to the police and we need to talk to the police. Instead of walking, let’s do some talking.”

SEAL: “And let’s tell the people and the police who did this hideous crime. You know, I’m all for walking, all for protesting. But all of that is like a little pig’s tail. It’s real cute, but it don’t produce much more pork. And we need to take our community back, and I’m here as the sheriff of this parish, to stand with the city of Bogalusa. And we’re going to help them, and we’re going to take back our city. Too much crime is going on in Bogalusa. Too many drugs are being sold in Bogalusa. And you can mark it back, that’s what this is all about. It’s about drugs, it’s about mean-ness, it’s about sin. And we need to take our city back. If we’re going to walk, let’s walk to church. But I want to encourage our people, let’s talk. The only way that we’re going to turn this city around, is to tell who did this. Look, telling on a crime is not ratting. It’s doing the right thing. And we’re going to have to preach in our pulpits that telling of a crime is not ratting off, it’s doing the right thing. And I want to encourage the community to do that. I want to encourage our preachers to get up in the pulpit, and preach that. And let’s take this city back. Satan has taken over in Bogalusa, and it’s time that we take it back. God bless everybody and thank you for being here, and thank you for caring for this wonderful city.”

O’BERRY: “As I said, we’re partnering with local, state and federal officials in this investigation. So at this time, I’d like to introduce ATF New Orleans Field Division Special Agent in Charge William McCrary for some remarks.”

McCRARY: “Thank you, Major. ATF is a federal law enforcement agency within the Department of Justice, that among our other tasks, protects our communities from violent criminals and criminal organizations who illegally use firearms. We assist our state and local law enforcement partners in incidents, such as these mass-casualty shootings. Currently, we have one group of agents assigned, on the ground in Bogalusa right now, working with the police department and the sheriff’s department. We have other agents and intelligence specialists, in other groups around the state, working on this case.”

McCRARY: “We do this by looking at information to share within federal databases. Through the NIBEN, the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. We’ll assist with laboratory services, and we’ll use other instances of technology in an effort to identify these perpetrators and to bring them to justice. We’re absolutely committed to working with our partners, and committed to the safety of the citizens of Bogalusa and Washington Parish.”

O’BERRY: “As you can understand, this is a very active and ongoing investigation, so the information that I can provide will be limited. But if you have any questions, please come forward and I’ll try to answer them as best I can. Any questions from the media?”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “Yes, we’re five officers on the shift, and we did call one or two additional officers that we were able to get out. But that many officers versus a crowd of 500 and growing, there was no way to disperse that crowd. And we were getting other calls for service. Three or four people were arrested; we had disturbances; we had other incidents going on that these officers had to respond to. So they couldn’t stay there to monitor the situation. They did the best they could, under the circumstances.”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “We’re currently investigating to determine exactly who the organizers are. Once we establish that, we will consult with our city prosecutors on any possible charges that we may be able to bring, towards them.”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “I understand that one or two are critical. I don’t believe any are life-threatening at this time, but I can’t verify that for certain.”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “I don’t want to speculate on anything. We’re looking at that, and looking at one or two other theories. It’s just too early to speculate. That’s a possibility that we’re looking into.”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “We’re going to do everything we can and we’re going to put our lives on the line, and come to work everyday to protect you as best we can. We need the public’s help right now. When shootings happen, it generally doesn’t happen when the police are there. There were several hundred people there that night. People saw something. There are people in this community who know who did this. I’m convinced of that. I know you’re afraid. For some people it may be a loyalty situation. But if you want to stop the violence on our streets, come talk to us. That’s the only way … we have to partner together with our community.”

O’BERRY: “We’re on your side. We’re here to make you safe, but we need your assistance. Generally speaking, I think Bogalusa’s a fairly safe place. But in the midst of a pandemic like this, I don’t know who thought it was a good idea for 500 people or more to gather together and have a barbecue on a Saturday evening. It’s ridiculous.”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “If anybody told you that a permit was issued, they lied to you. Under no circumstances, with the COVID-19 pandemic going on, would we have even considered a permit. First of all, an application must be submitted in a timely manner. It must be reviewed. The chief of police must then determine if that permit would be issued, and under these circumstances, no permit of this sort would have been issued. I’ve heard that on Facebook and through social media, that certain people are putting it out that there was a permit. There was absolutely no permit, or no permission granted to have this event. To say that it was a bad decision, would be a gross understatement. Those are lies. And the people that did this should feel some sort of responsibility. For endangering not only the lives of people with this virus going on and having an event like this, but then look what happens. You should be ashamed of yourselves, those people that did this.”

Inaudible question

O’BERRY: “I’ve already addressed this. We had five people working. We had a crowd of over 500 people. I want to see you take five people and move 500 on, when we cannot even stay there and police that because we’re getting other emergency calls for service. We have 28 active officers in this city. We need more. That takes money. I’m not going to get into that, because that’s a whole other conversation. We’re understaffed. We need more people. But we’re going to do everything we can with what we have, and we thank our federal and local agencies for partnering with us. That’s going to complete the interview and the questions. Again, I’d like to thank you for coming. We encourage assistance from the public. As more information becomes available, we’ll release it to you. Thank you so much.”