CRIMETRACKER: Victims of violent crime living in fear

Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 10:30 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Opening a door changed Kayla McCloud’s life forever.

“I’m just standing there like, ‘what.’ I didn’t see anybody when I went out there and next thing you know, everything just went black,” says Kayla.

The gunman, she says, seemed to be hiding in the shadows and within seconds, he shot her in the face.

“I didn’t know what happened. I know I fell back, and I passed out for I don’t know how long. I came to, and I turned around on my hands and knees, and I started screaming for help,” says Kayla.

Bleeding and screaming in pain, Kayla, a mother of two, thought it was the end.

“In that moment, I was about to die. I was scared to leave my family. It was scary,” says Kayla.

“The possibility that I could have lost her is unbearable at times,” says Kayla’s husband, Terrell.

On January 3, Kayla, the assistant manager of IHOP in New Orleans East was wrapping up her shift when a co-worker told her someone was breaking into her vehicle in the parking lot.

“I’ll stay up sometimes for hours trying to gather my thoughts. I’m just grateful to still be here with my family. I’m so happy to still be alive,” says Kayla.

The bullet went through her forehead and out of her jaw, grazing her brain and taking out her left eye. Doctors inserted metal plates to replace her facial bones. She’ll eventually have another surgery to get a prosthetic eye.

“My children are worried. My family is worried. My emotions are up and down. It’s hard not to think about that night. I try not to,” says Kayla.

The shooter was never caught. Kayla is one of more than 40 people shot in just the past month.

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“Right now, you are starting to see emboldened and brazen criminals escalating their behaviors,” says Chief Shaun Ferguson.

Ferguson points to the type of criminal activity unfolding across New Orleans.

“I absolutely do believe that many of these individuals escalated their behaviors from what was a property crime, now to a violent crime,” says Ferguson.

“We have to live in fear. And people work hard for the things that they earn and to be carjacked is really sad,” says a victim.

A 15-year-old is accused of shooting and killing a woman with a rifle during an attempted carjacking.

A trip to Walgreens ends in murder when someone gunned down a 14-year-old boy on Christmas Day.

“Because it’s a kid, and it has to stop. The violence has to stop in New Orleans,” says John Alfred.

“I just think there’s a mentality within the youth. They look at this as a video game in their perception or in their mindset, and this is not something that is just happening in New Orleans,” says Chief Ferguson.

It’s happening across the country.

“We saw a major uptick in violent crime. That would include homicide, non-fatal assaults, that would be non-fatal assaults carried out by a firearm,” says Dr. Richard Rosenfeld, professor of criminology at the University of Missouri St. Louis. He says most major cities experienced a significant uptick in violent crime starting in June of last year.

“Two factors, the impact of the pandemic on policing an the impact of police legitimacy. That creates a deadly combination that could have contributed to the uptick of violence,” says Dr. Rosenfeld

Dr. Rosenfeld believes crime reduction is possible, but it will take time and change.

“Any approach has to involve three components. One of which is pretty much out of control of the local police department and that is subduing the pandemic to ensure policing that can get back at least to what it was prior to the pandemic,” says Dr. Rosenfeld.

He says increasing manpower on the street makes a difference but will take “all hands on deck.”

“Overall, staffing levels are down in New Orleans. It’s going to mean that some officers currently working behind the desk, and there may not be many of them left, will have to be pulled off the desk duty and put back on the street,” says Dr. Rosenfeld.

Chief Ferguson admits there are plenty of challenges ahead.

“Our number one goal right now is to identify these individuals that are committing the violent crime and getting them off the street,” says Chief Ferguson.

Once off the street, though, he says many are quickly released with little to no bond.

“It’s is demoralizing. When I joined this department, we used to complain about individuals getting out of jail before the ink dries on the paper. Well, today it’s before the report can upload to the cloud, they are out on the street and the officers are absolutely frustrated,” says Ferguson.

Kayla, though, still waits for police to catch her shooter.

“I want him to know he could have taken a mother, a daughter, and a wife from their family because we didn’t even have anything in the car,” says Kayla.

“So, he went from a non-violent crime to attempted murder. Senseless,” says Terrell.

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