School board member witnesses gang fight, shots fired

Published 7:32 pm Friday, February 23, 2018

A Port Arthur school board member is speaking out after witnessing what he called a gang fight where shots were fired on Thursday.

In addition to the fight he tried to break up on 36th Street near Rutgers Avenue there was also a similar fight blocks away as well as one across town around Seventh Street.

Robert Reid, a native of the city, was heading to a school board meeting shortly after 5 p.m. when he came upon a group of teens in the street and nearby yards and thought they were playing; then he realized what he was seeing.

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“I thought, these aren’t kids playing, there’s too many of them, they were in people’s yards at the intersection. All of a sudden I see them fighting,” Reid said.

Reid counted 13 teens ranging from what appeared to be age 17 and under. Clues that this might have been a gang fight were obvious to the longtime educator who also worked with troubled youth; there were nine to 10 black teens and about half of them were wearing white muscle shirts and red shorts.

The teens on the other side of the fight were Hispanic and not clad in gang style clothing. The oldest appeared to be 16.

A woman pulled up in a truck and tried to break up the fight, he said, but gave up and left. Another vehicle approached, this time it was a Dodge Charger with a woman who looked to be about 30 behind the wheel. Reid thought the woman was there to break up the fight but instead four or more black teens piled out of her car.

“She was a facilitator,” he said. “They were in her car and got out and started fighting.”

One of the kids, he said, was armed with a long metal pipe but did not use it.

As the fight ended the teens took off in separate directions and Reid pulled up to ask first one group, then the other, if everyone was OK.

“I said you guys need to go home, I called the police. I’m just letting you know. You need to go home before they get here,” he said thinking this would diffuse the incident and send the kids home safely.

While talking to one of the teens, a teen from the other side of the fight sped past as four kids, who were going to leave in the car, jumped back out; the violence rekindled.

“While I was talking to him (one of the teens), about five to 10 yards behind me I heard three gunshots,” he said. “I didn’t even turn around. I left.”

Reid called police again, this time to report the gunshots.

“Then I heard a police siren that sounded like it was on 32nd Street. I didn’t realize at that time they were going to the area of Brittany Place,” he said.

Port Arthur Police Department confirmed receiving a call Thursday afternoon near Brittany Place. An officer spoke to someone at the scene about teens fighting and shots being fired but by then the fighters disbanded.

Not long after, PAPD received several calls on Rutgers Avenue near St. Catherine Church and beyond regarding kids fighting and shots fired.

Reid was aware of the Brittany Place area incident and said he also heard there was a similar incident on Seventh Street near Judice’s French Market.

“Unquestionably, this is a black and Hispanic gang issue that I saw,” he said. “Apparently that’s the same thing that happened near Normandy and Brittany Place.”

Reid has lived in the same neighborhood since 2000 and raised his children there.

“Yesterday was the first time I ever drove up on an incident where gunshots were fired,” he said. “The thing is I was right there, yards from where it (shots fired) was happening and that’s disturbing.”

While his children are grown — the youngest is 17 — there are children in his neighborhood, and after seeing what he saw on Thursday he wonders if it is safe to be on the streets.

“If we don’t gather as citizens, this will get out of control,” he said. “This is a community issue not to be downplayed.”

Reid knows his neighborhood will keep an eye out for this type of activity and hopes the police will take heed before the issue escalates.