Teen’s smile erased by gunfire

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2000

ERIK SANZENBACH / L’Observateur / September 13, 2000

RESERVE – Fourteen-year-old Andrew Stewart was a quiet friendly boy to all who knew him in the Reserve Oaks Housing Development.

“He got along with everybody,” said his mother, Leola Stewart. “He was areally friendly person.””I’ll always have good thoughts of him,” said Andrew’s grandmother, Emelda Stewart. “He had these big dreamy eyes and a big smile for everybody.”That friendly smile was extinguished Sunday afternoon when Andrew was shot in the head by a .357-caliber pistol.The shooter, Sammy Gray III, 27, 309 E. 13th St., Reserve, told St. John theBaptist Parish deputies the shooting was accidental and that his gun inadvertently fired, hitting Andrew in the head.

Gray was arrested and charged with negligent manslaughter. It was alsodiscovered that Gray had two outstanding warrants against him for contempt of court and parole violation. Gray is still in the Sherman WalkerCorrectional Center under a $200,000 bond.

On Sunday, deputies responded to a shooting call at 2:30 p.m. on E. 13th St. When they got there they found two girls applying towels to a head wound on Andrew. Acadian Ambulance rushed the boy to River Parishes Hospital,where he was pronounced dead at 3:18 p.m.According to witnesses several boys were out on the street throwing rocks.

Gray got mad, went inside his house and retrieved his gun. When he cameout, he brandished the gun at the boys, and the pistol fired.

Capt. Mike Tregre of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office said, “He had thehammer cocked on the gun and it went off.”But Emelda Stewart doesn’t think it was an accident.

“I’ll say it until the day I die,” she said. “It was no accident. A .357 can’t fireunless it is cocked. I want that man to pay for the death of that child.”The Stewart family was just recovering from the death of Andrew’s grandfather, who died of cancer, when the shooting occurred.

Emelda Stewart is no stranger to violence, either. Eleven years ago her sonwas murdered on East 14th Street, just one street over from where Andrew was killed.

“We still don’t know who shot my son,” she said.

Andrew was a special education student at the Glade School, where he just started the seventh grade.

Even though he was only in school for three weeks, he had made an impression on principal Perry DiCarlo.

“He was a very quiet and happy child,” said DiCarlo. “And he was no problemat all.”Cynthia Lawrence, a teacher’s aide in Andrew’s class said, “He was fun-loving, playful and very loving.”Emelda Stewart said Andrew was very impressed with how his teacher could run a computer.

“He had dreams of owning his own computer business,” she said.

Monday morning was very subdued at Glade School.

“The mood is very quiet this morning,” said DiCarlo. “It’s a real tragedy, andthe kids feel it.”Lawrence said she and the teacher have been trying to explain the situation to Andrew’s classmates.

“They’re coping with it,” said Lawrence. “But it’s hard for them to understandexactly what happened.”DiCarlo said there are several Glade students that actually witnessed the shooting, and they have been seen by six counselors the St. John ParishSchool Board assigned to Glade after the shooting.

Cpl. Herman Miller of the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office is the resourceofficer at Glade, and he said he would be making an extra effort to talk to the children about what happened. Considering the circumstancessurrounding the shooting, Miller thinks he should stress the danger of guns to the kids.

“We’ll talk to them about it,” said Miller, “especially the sixth- and seventh- graders. That’s the age when they want to know everything about guns.”When asked about guns, Leola Stewart said without hesitation, “Guns should be banned.”Emelda Stewart shook her head sadly.

“He never hurt anybody or talked back,” she said. “In fact we had to pushhim to say anything. He was a good, quiet boy.”

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