Lack of communication with Police Chief Richard Mizzi and fear of escalating crime due to two recent shooting incidents dominated a well-attended April 17 Arnaudville town meeting.
Two recent incidents within a week where a firearm was discharged, a drive-by shooting on April 10 and another incident on April 17, have caused great concern among residents.
There were numerous residents on hand to share their concerns. Officer Chris Ardoin sat in for Chief Mizzi, who was not present at the meeting.
The Council accepted Officer Carl Hardy’s resignation, but informed Ardoin that they would not take up a request for an adjustment of police officer salaries or hiring of a full time police officer without Mizzi in attendance.
Hardy was on hand to explain that he was resigning due to lack of support. He said he responded to the shooting incident at Deville Apartments, where he found a crowd of people. He said he called the chief four times for support and has yet to receive a response.
Alderwoman Stephanie Navarre became emotional in speaking about the shooting on April 10 that was directed at her home. According to Navarre, this is “...something that doesn’t happen over here.”
A suspect was picked up and charged within an hour, but Navarre said she was concerned that the suspect was released within a couple of days. St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz explained that the suspect could not be held without bond, due to a lack of probable cause. The charges have not been dropped. It was reported that it revolved around drug activity.
The incident on April 17 involved a gun being fired at the Deville Apartments. Officer Carl Hardy said he arrived to find a crowd. Several residents present at the meeting said they heard the shot.
Sheriff Guidroz told the board that Arnaudville had good officers, some of whom needed further training, but that the police department clearly lacked leadership.
He explained that there was a tacit agreement that the sheriff’s office will not come into Arnaudville or any other city jurisdiction without being invited.
“Anything you need, we are coming. You are my constituents,” Guidroz said.
He also made clear that it was completely Chief Mizzi’s decision whether or not to call for support from the sheriff’s office.
Guidroz added that he doesn’t need an invitation to investigate drug activity in Arnaudville. He said Arnaudville doesn’t have the resources to handle these investigations, and to inform the chief prior to conducting undercover investigations could risk the operation.
The sheriff said he has e-mail, a phone and a TIPS line. If you call him, he will come.
Mayor Kathy Richard was concerned about recent events opening the door to more crime. She says she has witnessed strange cars coming into town. Several citizens testified as to their fear of escalating crime, especially the discharge of firearms.
Ginger Lecompte, the new director of the Chamber of Commerce, voiced her concern about the problems of attracting businesses to come and stay. Peggy Duval said she moved here because it was a quiet small town. She is particularly distressed about the drug activity. She said heard the gun shot on Saturday from one block over. Monica Shoemaker came to the meeting with her three children. She’s been in Arnaudville for over seven years. She said many people have stopped walking or letting their kids ride bikes, because they are afraid. She said she has even seen people carrying tasers.
Adding to her concern, she said, is the fact that she called law enforcement about a pit bull in her yard, and it took over an hour for a response.
Sheriff Guidroz made it clear he believes Arnaudville lacks police enforcement leadership, and he reiterated his offer of providing police protection to Arnaudville – although he further explained that this was a complicated process and not the easy solution.