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Thursday, 08 August 2013 10:09
Landry-Coulter New Orleans shooting reflects personal, societal failures
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CRIME-SCENERecent headlines have focused on the tragic incident in the Marigny that occurred July 26th at 2:00A.M. . A young Marshall Coulter jumped the fenced of resident Merrit Landry’s home for the obvious purpose of burglarizing the property. There was no other reason for his aggressive action.

Mr. Landry, hearing the disturbance, armed himself, went outside to investigate and shot the young man. That incident has dominated television and print news ever since. What happened was sad and not entirely clear. If indeed he did shoot without proper warning and not under personal threat, then he does have a legal problem. 
The result: a young man remains in critical condition with a bullet to his head and Mr. Landry is in shock over what occurred and the public reaction to it. He also faces serious criminal charges. There are no heroes here…only victims on all sides.
That having been said, it seems to this writer that a closer and more complete inquiry should be made about events leading up to this sad night:
Why is there so much attention focused on this shooting when on the same night a man was gunned down and murdered just blocks away? That person’s name and that incident are barely mentioned. Same for the other murders that have occurred since July 26th.
Had Mr. Landry been Black or female, would the public outcry be as intense?
Marshall Coulter is not an innocent bystander. Young Coulter broke into and entered another person’s property. He was committing a criminal act, possibly a felony.
Why is the blame placed on Mr. Landry alone? It appears that since the young man was only 14 years old and violating curfew laws that his mother should be held accountable for negligence. She knew he was not home and it appears he did this on a regular basis with no parental supervision. Had she performed her parental responsibilities Marshall would not have been in Landry’s yard that night or the hospital today. Where are child services? Are her other seven children in a stable, healthy environment?
The family members of the shooting victim openly declare that Marshall had a history of night time burglaries and they knew about them. He was a criminal and his activity was apparently escalating. How long would it be before weapons would be involved? Are family members not responsible for failure to stop his dangerous pursuits?
Since he is a juvenile, we have no access to his police records. Has Marshall been arrested before for this behavior? If so, hasn’t the justice system failed to address his behavior? Doesn’t the legal system deserve some blame in this matter if a troubled juvenile is allowed to roam the streets and continue his criminal actions?
Consider the school system. Has Marshall displayed anti-social behavior patterns? Skipping school? New Orleans has truancy laws. If he violated these laws his actions here were a signal and should have been brought to the attention of the proper authorities. Was anything done?
Consider also the fact that the unemployment rate among young African-American males is nearly 41%. These young men want the same things others have, but they lack the legal means of attaining them. Why has this not been addressed?
Where are the adult male mentors in the Black community? Many of these young men have no responsible positive male influences to pattern their lives.
Everyone failed Marshall Coulter: his parents, his siblings, his friends, his community, the legal system, and possibly even his schools. Likely, everyone who knew Marshall realized that his chosen life style would end in tragedy.
The bottom line here is that what happened July 26th at 2:00A.M. likely came as no surprise to those who knew young Coulter’s activities. It was only a matter of time before something tragic would happen to either him or to one of his victims. Responsibility for what unfolded belongs to more than one person.
Another factor that must be considered is Mr. Landry’s state of mind. I purchased a home for my daughter in the Bywater and while I was working on the house I had a real problem with a group of pre-teens climbing the back fence and destroying property. The neighbors and I chased them away at least seven times and on each occasion they were fearless and insolent…laughing at us for attempting to gain control over our own property. I figured that in a few years this small group of kids had the potential to become violent. I felt they were honing their skills.
I went to the police on two occasions seeking help and advice. I was told that property owners had no rights to even use pepper spray to ward off invasions. As for reporting them to the police, I was informed that the juvenile authorities would likely let them loose immediately after they were picked up, so there was little inclination to do anything on the police’s part because their hands were tied. However, if they entered the house: “…fell free to kill them, that’s the law!”
I had no desire to harm anyone. I merely wanted some peace of mind and some sense of security that my daughter’s life would not be at risk from random evening and night invasions. It created a dangerous state of mind where I was pushed to the point of considering taking matters into my own hands to solve a persistent and threatening problem. I had full knowledge that nothing would be done by the authorities to protect me, my daughter, or my property. It became a desperate situation. That is a problem.
Mr. Landry’s actions were extreme in the eyes of the law, but understandable when living under constant fear of a home invasion when you have a young child and a pregnant wife. He had no way of knowing to what extreme this intruder would go, or if he was armed. Marshall did climb a 6 foot fence with a dog in the yard in the early morning hours. That says something about his determination to commit a crime. Was it limited to theft? Mr. Landry had no means of knowing.
It is too easy to make Merrit Landry the villain here, and the press has done exactly that. This also works to the advantage of those who seek to make any incident a racial cause. The fact is there is plenty of blame to go around.
What happened that night is terribly sad, but the result of negligence, incompetence, and abuse on too many levels. Mr. Landry fired the weapon, but society’s failures created the situation. If anything of value can come of this tragic event that has destroyed two families, perhaps Marshall Coulter’s fate will focus attention on the lives of the many other Marshalls out there. Efforts should be expended to try to help them before their lives track a similar course and are touched by comparable violence.
This story runs far deeper than a single event happening early one morning in a fenced yard. It touches the very soul of problems raging in our community.

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