Drive-by shooting in LaPlace kills one

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 13, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACEĀ — A verbal confrontation between two strangers left a LaPlace man dead of a gunshot wound to the head on Saturday night, the shooting witnessed by many neighbors and friends, including the victim’s 5-year-old daughter, according to St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Donald Guarino, 26, of Greenwood Drive, sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head after confronting a man who showed up at a gathering Guarino and some of his neighbors were having in front of their homes.

The confrontation started when the alleged shooter, Kenchristopher Hilson, 22, of 709 New Bedford St, LaPlace, emerged from a car Guarino’s neighbors say had been speeding down the street while they were having the party, said Sheriff Wayne Jones.

Danielle Howell, Guarino’s live-in girlfriend, said the party included young children, and the group was getting frustrated over concerns for their safety. At one point, someone from the party hurled a beer bottle at the car, an Oldsmobile Cutlass, striking the windshield and cracking it.

The police were then called by someone at the gathering to complain of the speeding vehicle.

The sheriff’s office said the driver of the car, KD Hilson, and his two passengers did not stop, but instead drove to a location to pick up his brother, Kenchristopher, and returned to Greenwood Drive about 20 minutes later.

The four men have all been arrested. Kenchristopher Hilson was booked Saturday with second-degree murder. KD Hilson, same address; Harold Stanton, 19, 2105 Yorktown Drive; and Cornell Watkins, 23, 713 Plymouth Drive, were all booked with principle to second-degree murder.

They are all in the Sherman Walker Correctional Facility, with bail set at $500,000, and the sheriff’s office said they have confessed to their involvement in the crime. The weapon has not been recovered.

Howell said when the car came back, the neighbors all were taking their children closer to the homes when Hilson and Guarino began the verbal altercation in the middle of the street. She said the two argued for about three or four minutes before Guarino was killed. Sheriff Jones said there is no evidence of a physical altercation.

Howell said it appeared Guarino was going to walk back into the house, after she grabbed his arm and tried to turn him toward it, but Hilson continued to taunt Guarino, setting him off and bringing him back into the dispute.

“I saw him cock the gun, and I turned my head,” Howell said, “They say he was dead before he hit the ground.”

At a press conference held Monday, Sheriff Jones stressed the importance of citizen’s calling authorities if a similar situation should ever arise.

“If the sheriff’s office would have been called, we could’ve handled it,” Jones said.

He pointed out that since the complaint had been made about the speeding, there was actually a deputy on patrol in the neighborhood at the time the shooting occurred.

“Sometimes they try to take the situation into their own hands, and there was a frustration on the resident’s part that maybe they had enough,” Jones said, ” But better judgment could have been used by calling the sheriff’s office.”

Maj. Mike Tregre, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the suspects were apprehended shortly after the incident at their residence, after the Hilson’s mother called to report minor damage to her car.

According to Tregre, deputies saw the damage and the description of the car fit the reported incident, so deputies asked who had been driving. The Hilson brothers were then taken into custody.

Attempts to contact members of the Hilson family were unsuccessful.

Howell said “Donny” Guarino was “very outgoing, unique, risk-taking, loving and unselfish.

He stood up for everyone and himself,” Howell said.

Howell said Guarino is from Destrehan, would have turned 27 next week, and has lived in LaPlace for four years.

“He loved it here and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Howell said.

Howell said she believes the shooter came to the house with the plan to do wrong, pointing out the license plate was taken off the car when the suspects returned, and she said Hilson had the gun pointed out Guarino’s head the entire time, while his daughter, who was in the garage, looked on.

“I pleaded with the shooter, ‘please do not do this in front of his child.'” Howell said, “(Donnie) said, ‘if you got to kill me then kill me, but I’m watching out for my child.'”

Howell said after he pulled the trigger, Hilson just stood there for a moment.

“He actually looked kind of shocked,” Howell said, “He stood there for a second and stared with his hands and the gun down by his side.

“Whatever his intentions were, he looked surprised that he did it, and the people in the car started calling his name, and he just kind of snapped out of it,” she said.

“It is really troubling to have a person lose his life over something like this,” Jones said, “In today’s society people have to have patience with one another.”

Howell said she is very concerned for Guarino’s daughter, and wanted the community to know this is a pointless crime which has affected so many people.

“Something has to be done about this violence,” Howell said, “Something is seriously wrong.”