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1 Killed, 3 Hurt in MLK Parade Shootings

Crime: Violence began with a fistfight as marchers passed by in Louisiana, police say, adding that race was not a factor. All those injured are children.

January 20, 1998|LIANNE HART | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BATON ROUGE, La. — A man involved in a fistfight stepped out of a crowd Monday as a Martin Luther King Day parade marched past and shot another man to death, wounding three children who were in his way.

"We have a suspect, but not in hand," Police Chief Greg Phares told reporters. He said the gunman and all of his victims were black. "It appears there was no racial or political or hate-crime motive. It appears to have stemmed from a personal dispute."

Phares identified the dead man as James Carter, 20, of Baton Rouge. He declined to identify the suspect or the wounded children, but described the victims as a 7-year-old girl in critical condition, hit in the torso; a 9-year-old boy in stable condition, hit in the lower leg; and an 11-year-old girl in stable condition, hit in the hand and thigh.

In the "mass confusion" that followed the shooting, Phares said, the suspect fled.

The dead man's mother, Mary, 40, said his 17-year-old brother played bass drum in a parade band that included students from rival high schools. She said the rivalry had caused a fight several days ago, but she did not know whether this old fight was a factor in the shooting.

She said she thought her son was an innocent bystander.

A cousin, who gave her name only as Tameka, 16, said that James Carter had grabbed her arm when he was shot and pleaded: "Please don't let me die."

"I told him I wouldn't," she said, tearfully.

The shooting started as a fistfight during the parade between at least two and perhaps four people, the police chief said. Some were spectators, he said, and others were participants in the parade.

As the end of the march passed a squat brick building next to King of Kings Barber & Beauty Shop on Government Street, the fight escalated into gunshots.

Sarah Johnson, 27, watching with her 6-year-old daughter, said the gunman seemed to know his target. But "the kids," she said, "they got hit because they were in the way."

When she and her daughter heard the shots, Johnson said, they ran. "We were just scared," she said. "Everybody was scared." Her daughter ran so fast she lost her white sandals.

Johnson said she heard someone shouting, then saw that it was the 9-year-old boy, who was the son of a friend. So she ran back to help him.

"I saw the hole in his leg," Johnson said. "I saw the hole in his little sweatpants. He was howling, 'My leg! My leg!'

"I picked him up and took him to a policeman."

Martin Luther King III, in Minneapolis for a speech on personal responsibility, told reporters: "I think [the shooting] drives home some of the points I tried to make today. We have got to work to eliminate violence."

Not far from the scene of the shooting, Johnson found her daughter's sandals. They were near a 14-inch bloodstain that ran along a sidewalk and down over a curb.

Nearby were a chocolate doughnut, an intravenous tube in a plastic bag and some gauze, still in its sterile wrapper.

Next to the bloodstain was a drawing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

It had been cut from a book and pasted onto a stick. Its outline had been colored in by a child.

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