Youths’ handgun fascination alarms sheriff

Published 11:45 pm Friday, August 8, 2014

By Stephen Hemelt

LAPLACE — Children and teenagers posing for social media photographs with handguns.

St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff Mike Tregre said it’s something authorities see on a near daily basis. 

“There is a fascination with it,” he said. “We see them every week. When we go to the home, parents are shocked that their juvenile child is even posting pictures with guns. Some of them even hold (the gun) and point it at themselves. We’re seeing it on social media daily.”

Tregre said his department is grappling with how to educate area youth about gun safety.

“I’m not trying to promote weapons familiarization,” he said. “I’m just trying to figure out a way that we can work in the community to explain to our youth and make them understand the dangers of handguns.”

Tregre said the danger of gunplay by youth was exemplified recently in LaPlace, where horseplay led to a shooting, surgery and an arrest.

Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to River Parishes Hospital at 11:30 p.m. July 25 after an 18-year-old female arrived with a gunshot wound in her left arm.

She was transferred to University Hospital and underwent surgery to treat the injury.

“Initially, the victim told deputies she was shot outside her house in the 2100 block of Greenwood Drive in LaPlace by someone in a passing car,” a release from the Sheriff’s Office said.

“After further investigation by detectives, the victim admitted to detectives that she and her sister were in their house with two male friends. One of the friends took a gun from the waistband of his pants, and they played around with the gun.”

Authorities said the shooter thought he unloaded the gun and pulled the trigger.

“The gun discharged, and the bullet struck the victim in the arm,” the release said.

The victim’s friend, Elliot Weber, 17, from Garyville was arrested and booked with illegal use of a weapon for the criminally negligent discharging of a firearm resulting in great bodily harm.”

Weber is free after posting a $10,000 bond.

Tregre said the victim was lucky not to be killed, adding the gunshot was inches away from striking a vital part of the body.

 Sgt. Dane Clement said there are no plans at this time to charge the shooting victim with a crime, adding her initial false report to detectives took place just after she had undergone surgery and she was scared.