Graduation party ends in gunfire; student dead

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 27, 1998

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 27, 1998

DESTREHAN – “There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for anybody,” Barbara Greene said of her son, Cleophus Greene III, a Destrehan High School student who died early Sunday of a gunshot wound.

Greene, according to his family, stepped in front of a bullet aimed at an adult chaperone at a graduation party held on Meadows Drive in Destrehan.

By Monday, the 200 block of Meadows Drive was still shell-shocked and few had anything to say. One resident, who asked not to be identified, said he had lived on the block since 1995, “but I’m getting out.”It was a happy occasion turned violent. It began with a chaperoned party for a group of about 100 Destrehan High School graduates and their friends. It turned tragic when a small group of uninvited “guests” showed up.

By 12:57 a.m. it was all over. Greene, 17, of St. Rose, was dead, and Dwayne Washington, 16, of Destrehan, was injured.

Washington, according to St. Charles Parish Hospital spokesman Jerry Desselle, is in stable condition in a private room. Security has been beefed up at the hospital because of threatening phone calls, Desselle said.

Two arrests were quickly made after the shooting based on eyewitness identification. Travis Sumlin, 18, 815 East Easy St., New Sarpy, was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Dedrick Brown, 20, 162 Diamond Road, Norco,was charged with attempted murder and illegal discharge of a firearm.

Two more arrests followed Sunday night, those of Randell Jenkins, 21, 815 East Easy Street, New Sarpy, and a 15-year-old New Sarpy male. Each were charged with attempted murder and illegal discharge of a firearm.

Capt. Patrick Yoes said the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office was swamped with calls after the incident, during which “numerous” gunshots were reported fired. Deputies arrived to find “a very, very large crowd” in the block behind Destrehan Library.

Yoes related that a group of males showed up at the party uninvited and demanded entrance. Greene allegedly stepped in to help prevent their entry, and shots were fired.

Yoes said it has not been determined whether Greene was also armed.

Greene was pronounced dead at St. Charles Parish Hospital, Luling. Washington, an invited guest at the party who was also hit during the gunfire, was admitted in stable condition.

Yoes said the case is still under investigation, and he added information has been trickling into the office slowly because of the Memorial Day holiday. He said Detective Joe Lawler, the officer in charge of the case,said the incident is “one of the strangest ones he ever had.” Leo Babin, spokesperson for St. Charles Parish Schools, said grief counselors were sent to Destrehan High School in the aftermath of the shooting, along with a beef-up of school security, as part of the system’s violence-prevention program.

“It’s a problem we have in society,” Babin said. “The school was just an innocent bystander.” “All I know is that he was a beautiful kid,” Green’s mother, Barbara, said.

“He had his moments, being a teen-ager. He just loved people.” Greene was one of several east bank teen-agers accused recently in an alleged gang-rape incident involving a 15-year-old girl. Greene was charged with sexual battery.

“He was real stressed out about that case,” his mother recalled, adding her son wanted to attend the party to put it all out of his head for awhile.

“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she said, “But it showed he was a good person.” Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but the service is tentatively planned for Saturday.

“He was my son, but he was also my friend,” Greene’s mother concluded.

Photo: CLEOPHUS GREENE III, shown here in a photo taken two weeks before his shooting death in Destrehan Sunday morning, is due to be buried Saturday, though arrangements are incomplete as of press time. Four arrests were made by St. Charles Parish authorities in connection with the graduation party shooting.

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