Another murderer taken off the street. Another case resolved.
This is how we handle killers now, especially gang members - we identify them, publicise their names and faces, and then leave them on the streets until they are killed by their own.
Saves police time and court costs. Just send out the wagon and pick up the bodies.Jim Gabour's articles for openDemocracy - plus four new columns - are collected in the fourth edition of the openDemocracy Quarterly
For details of Undercurrent: Life after Katrina, click here
A random headline, random example: the murder of an 18-year-old man who was himself wanted for killing two other "gangbangers" on Christmas night 2007. Four additional people were also wounded in that first shooting, as the thin wooden walls of a traditional New Orleans "shotgun"-style house were repeatedly raked by extended bursts of fire from an assault rifle.
Like other armed-gang thugs, his favourite prey were the easy targets: university students and music-club patrons returning to their cars and homes in the early hours after a night's entertainment.
Police tagged Eldrin George as the shooter. He was already dubbed the "Mole Robber" because of a large blemish on his face, and thus had been easily identified in over a dozen violent armed robberies during an earlier one-week binge in mid-December, and a number of other murders and burglaries, plus two incidents of auto theft and a bust on heroin possession, all within the last months of 2007.
The dude with the mole
A police photo of George staring down the mugshot camera had been circulating across the city for weeks, presumably released by the New Orleans police department (NOPD), and chatter on the street and web identified him as the perpetrator in the gang shooting. Police searched in earnest for a person now tagged as one of the city's highest-profile criminals, even storming a Mississippi River ferry when they thought he was aboard. He was not.
Eldrin George and his mole have been underground since those Christmas murders.
And now comes another dead man. Shot to death gang-style.
A body with a large mole under his right ear is brought to the New Orleans coroner.Jim Gabour is an award-winning film producer, writer and director, whose work focuses primarily on music and the diversity of cultures. He lives in New Orleans, where he is artist-in-residence and professor of video technology at Loyola University. His website is here
A selection of Jim Gabour's recent articles in openDemocracy:
"This is personal" (23 April 2007)
"Cutting loose" (4 May 2007)
"Mahatma 189" (11 May 2007)
"Undercurrent" (22 June 2007)
"Cry Oncle!" (12 July 2007)
"Lessons in the classics" (6 August 2007)
"The recurring anniversary of wilderness" (28 August 2007)
"Native to America" (26 September 2007)
"Number One with a bullet" (22 October 2007)
"The upper crust" (8 November 2007)
"Windfall" (17 December 2007)
"Jesus pulls a right cross" (25 February 2008)
At first the only clue to the identity of the criminal is that prominent birthmark. But then a name is attached to the mole. It is that same dangerous teenager named Eldrin George.
The attorney who represented him in the heroin-possession and stolen-vehicle cases claimed that he did not know of his client's other activities. He was quoted as saying that George was "always polite and well-dressed."
The lawyer had not seen the flyers with the mugshot. George was being sought "in connection with" multiple murders and other felonies. But everyone in the neighbourhood knew the gangbanger was him. The dude with the mole. The dude in the picture. The dude with Attitude.
Word was that retaliation for that Attitude was inevitable.
Then, without a word, his street sentence was handed down. His fate, however, was an inefficient execution, and though he was shot multiple times in the chest and legs, George was still able to run half a block before collapsing and then bleeding to death two hours later in an emergency room.
That was then.
This is now. Now, most everything above is a lie.
Now George is not dead.
Eldrin George had tightly-cut hair and a goatee and a mole under his ear larger than an inch in diameter. Altheus Myers had tightly-cut hair and a goatee and a mole under his ear less than an inch in diameter.
Myers is dead, George is not.
Or so police came to say. Though only twenty-four hours ago half a dozen proud "police sources" were extolling the street justice in the violent death of one of the city's most wanted murderers. Today those same sources are quiet, and official spokespeople acknowledge that the victim was Myers, though they now contend that he was indeed the intended prey, and was not a victim of mistaken identity.
A month later they had come up with no criminal record to justify that claim. There is only the mugshot. A guy with a buzz-cut. And a goatee. And a mole.
Just like in their picture.
The man with the plan
Myers was in the process of moving, with his mother, out of the crime-riddled Central City neighbourhood where he died. The family was relocating to the quieter Westbank of New Orleans, to a neighbourhood that did not flood during Katrina. By the first of the new month they were to be in a new home, out of harm's way. But yesterday, yesterday Altheus Myers walked to the corner store and never came back.
His picture did not accompany the news of his death.
Interesting, this game of murderous musical chairs. George perceives some slight received from rivals. The music starts up. The man with the mole then shoots up the house of that rival gang, killing and wounding half a dozen total. A chair is pulled out, and the music continues. A picture of a guy with a mole shows up on the street, saying the NOPD is after him. The guy looks tough. Another chair is pulled out. The offended gang tracks and guns down a man with a mole, but it is not the man with the mole, and they merely end up spawning another, divergent burst of vengeance and hate from the family of the victim. Another chair, more music.
Meanwhile, George figures out that his original enemies were of course really trying to murder him, so he goes back to his arsenal to try and get rid of the shooters before they succeed. More music, fewer chairs. Things were getting too hot, even for George. He went further underground.
His face featured again on a national television programme, America's Most Wanted. A reward was offered for his capture. Now, four months after George's murderous "binge", police have him in custody, having found him hiding in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Today, a giant billboard on Claiborne Avenue, a forty-foot-wide Crimestoppers sign that sports the mugshots of four of New Orleans's most wanted criminals, has a wide banner pasted across Eldrin's face that says "apprehended".
He is still out there. On the streets.
Eldrin George has a mole under his ear. So did Altheus Myers.
At 18 George is now in prison, and will more than likely grow old there.
At 18 Myers is dead and will get no older.
And now, folks, there are no chairs left.
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