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Councilman reflects on mall shooting


A security guard patrolled the empty parking lot at Oakwood Center one day after a deadly shooting cleared the crowded mall.

From the outside, no signs remained of Christmas Eve's chaotic scene.

“The mall was very crowded,” says Jefferson Parish Councilman-at-large Chris Roberts. "People just ran out. When you look at national events and so many innocent bystander events where people have just become victim to a crime in a public place, I'm sure that's what many people first thought when this happened.”

Roberts says it's that fear caused by the shooting that concerns him most.

Sheriff's deputies arrested 25-year-old Gary Francois near the mall minutes after investigators say he shot and killed 24-year-old James Vaughn.

Detectives haven't said what led to the shooting.

“The only thing that we know is that the victim had just finished a transaction at the cash register and had turned away from the cash register and was walking away when the perpetrator walked up to within three to four feet of him,” says Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand. “We believe at this point in time that there were I think three shots fired.”

Roberts says it's an isolated incident, but one that could have easily been so much worse.

He worries about the lasting effect the shooting could have on mall employees and customers.

“The very unfortunate part is, this creates fear for law-abiding citizens that say is it ok for me to go to the mall?” he says. “Is is it ok for me to still live here, do we need to move? Those are all things that bother us as elected officials, as government agencies we recognize that and I just cringe every time you have a situation like this happen because you know that that is what's going through people's minds.”

Roberts says parish leaders will work with the Sheriff's Office and Oakwood Center security to ensure the mall is safe.

While the parking lot is empty on Christmas, Dec. 26 is expected to be another busy day.

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