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Port Arthur mayor, NAACP chapter president react to violence after 1-year-old shot

Community leaders are calling for the public’s help in curbing violent crime after a Friday evening shooting injured a toddler.

“I did go into that neighborhood Saturday and spoke with two individuals,” said Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie. “They told me what they say and how senseless it was, how quiet the neighborhood had always been. They couldn’t imagine something like that happening there.”

Mayor Thurman Bartie, surrounded by members of the Health Department’s Strike Team and other city leaders, proclaims June 4 as National Gun Violence Awareness Day. (Monique Batson/The News)

It was approximately 7:35 p.m. when two men walked up to a house in the 2100 block of Evergreen Drive and fired shots, one of which struck a 1-year-old.

Click here to read more about the shooting.

The young boy, who was shot in the leg, was in good condition Monday and expected to recover, law enforcement officials said.

However, it wasn’t the city’s only shooting that day, when a home in the 3100 block of 18th Street was hit several times by gunfire. While three people were inside the residence, none were injured.

“I believe the community has to come together along with local authorities to partner with each other and bridge the gap,” said Rev. Kalan Gardner, president of the local NAACP chapter. “It’s a multiple-facet plan. There has to be deeper discussions about why the violence is taking place. We have to get to the root of the issue.”

The Rev. Kalan Gardner Sr. stands at the pulpit of historic First Sixth Street Baptist Church. (Mary Meaux/The News)

Gardner, who has lived in Port Arthur all of his life, said he’s noticed an uptick in violence in the last decade.

According to numbers from the Federal Bureau of Investigations, in 2018 Port Arthur logged 390 violent crimes with a population of 55,643, averaging 143 people per violent crime.

In comparison, Beaumont had 1,265 violent crimes with a population of 119,368, averaging 94 people per violent crime.

“We have to have conversations,” Gardner said. “You can teach and talk to your child as much as you possibly can but ultimately there comes a time when that child has to make a decision on their own.”

He added that family upbringing can’t be blamed for violent crimes.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say some of these offenders weren’t raised right,” Gardner said. “They may have good parents and come from good homes.”

Bartie made similar sentiments, pleading with the public to come forward.

“Help me reach the perpetrators,” he said “No one wants to talk to the police; no one wants to tell on anyone.”

The mayor offered himself as a safe space for someone with information, promising to work with tipsters to maintain their anonymity while helping catch offenders.

“I was looking at a news clip this morning on shootings that occurred in Washington D.C. over the weekend,” Bartie said. “The police said, ‘I need tips. Someone knows who was driving that car, someone knows who pulled that trigger.’”

Gardner and Bartie said vigilance from the community such as organized watch programs would help prevent or solve violent crime in the city and protect its residents.

“We’re definitely praying for that child,” Gardner said.