ABOVE PHOTO: Londyn Samuels
(Photo: Andrea Samuels-Facebook)
By Chris Granger
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
In a tearful press conference last Friday, New Orleans officials and relatives of murdered toddler Londyn Samuels asked the community to end the violence that took her life and to help bring her killers to justice
“If y’all know anything, please call Crimestoppers,” implored Keion Reed, who has helped raise Londyn.
The baby girl was killed Thursday night, when two men opened fire in the 2800 block of South Saratoga Street in Central City. Londyn’s 18-year-old babysitter was struck by two bullets, police said, one of which exited the woman’s chest and struck the toddler, killing her.
At a press conference Friday afternoon at Cafe Reconcile, Andrea Samuels, Londyn’s mother, stood quietly by as others expressed outrage and sorrow over her daughter’s death.
“The senseless murder of Londyn Samuels touched the Cafe Reconcile family very deeply,” said CEO Glen Armantrout. He said Samuels, 22, of Gretna, graduated from their program, which trains at-risk youths to work in the culinary and hospitality fields. Samuels now works at the restaurant as a graduate trainer, mentoring other students.
Armantrout and Samuels were flanked by students, staffers and several family members, including Reed, 20. “I just want to thank everybody for your support,” Reed said, “She was my precious little girl. She was my world. She was my every thing.”
“This … baby was taken from us. You can’t ever replace that,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the hushed crowd. “It’s a drumbeat of death that is taking the precious from us.”
Landrieu echoed statements he has made to President Barack Obama and on national news during the past two weeks, describing a culture of crime in New Orleans that he says constitutes a public health crisis. He listed the names of four children in the past four years who have died at the hands of gun violence in Central City.
“The reason we know it can stop is that it has not always been this way. This is not who we are as people,” Landrieu said. “This is where we live, this is not where we are supposed to die.”
The evening brought together a community unified by tragedy. Neighbors, friends and strangers lingered for nearly an hour after speakers finished. Some lit candles, some hugged. By the end of the night, a pile of flowers and stuffed animals lined the sidewalk where Londyn was shot to death in her babysitter’s arms.
But even after the hugging stopped, dozens of people haunted the street, many silent, many asking questions about the civilization that led Londyn to be shot to death on a walk with her babysitter.
“I don’t know why this has to happen, why a 1-year-old,” one woman said. “And I know, I know, that after today things will just go back. Nobody will talk to anybody.”
New Orleans’ bounce musician DJ Jubilee, a.k.a. Jerome Temple, asked the crowd why more people did not take their children to A.L. Davis Playground that he supervises just a few blocks from where the shooting happened.
At the time of the vigil, no suspects had been identified in Londyn’s killing, and no family members of either victim took the podium to speak on Friday evening. Landrieu reiterated the city’s commitment to aggressive law enforcement in the pursuit of the suspects, and mentioned photos from surveillance video released by a nearby church showing what the NOPD said are persons of interest in the case.
At the end of his speech, Landrieu pointed to the man in the mirror. Everyone, even the mayor, he said, needs to get better to make Central City a safe place to live. New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said residents are tired, fed up and frustrated with the lack of love, respect and dignity for life. Cantrell turned to Samuels and told her, “I could be in your shoes just like other mothers could be in your shoes. You are not alone.”
Someone in the community saw what happened, Cantrell said. Someone who can call and help police. “We need people to stand up and be a vice to ensure that this violence comes to an end,” she said.
Police said the two men suspected in the shooting were caught on surveillance cameras, and that the shooting is not believed to have been a gun battle between separate individuals.
Barbara Lacen-Keller, director of constituent services for Councilmember-at-Large Stacy Head, announced plans to push a campaign for stronger gun laws. “We are going to fight for some stiffer, stiffer laws. This gun stuff has got to stop,” she said.
Samuels’ tears began to well in her eyes as Lacen-Keller spoke of burying babies, and as Armantrout closed out the press conference.
“I wanted this burned in your memories,” he said, holding up a flier with Londyn’s photo as tears streamed down his face. “Don’t ever forget this.”
[Ed. note: Currently a reward of $5,000, now increased to $20,000 is offered for any information in the shooting of Londyn Samuels.]