LAKE CHARLES, La. — Four Louisiana girls ages 12 to 14 have been charged in connection with the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl that was caught on live video Saturday night inside a Walmart store.
Calcasieu Parish sheriff’s deputies were called around 7:30 p.m. to the Lake Charles store, where they found the girl suffering from at least one stab wound. She was taken to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The preliminary investigation revealed that the five teens were involved in a fight in the store, at which time the victim was fatally wounded. A sheriff’s office spokeswoman told The Associated Press over the weekend that the fight may have originated at a nearby movie theater.
The other teens, a 12-year-old, two 13-year-olds and a 14-year-old, were subsequently arrested.
Sheriff Tony Mancuso said during a news conference Sunday that the girls had stolen the knives used in the crime from the Walmart where the fight took place.
One of the girls was charged with second-degree murder. The other three were charged as principals to second-degree murder.
The names of three of the girls were withheld because they are juveniles. The name of one of the 13-year-olds was initially released the night of the homicide because she was being sought by detectives.
The teen, who appeared in the video to have committed the stabbing, was later taken into custody. All four girls are being held in a juvenile detention facility.
The sheriff said Sunday that the Facebook Live video of the killing helped detectives easily solve the case.
“Our whole case unfolded before us through (Facebook Live) and Instagram and, what’s the other one?” Mancuso said. A reporter can be heard telling him the third platform was TikTok.
“We have videos of everything that took place, and it’s very disturbing,” the sheriff said. “It truly is.”
Watch Sunday’s news conference below, courtesy of KPLC in Lake Charles.
Footage of the fatal fight, which was recorded by one of the suspects, shows several girls standing in what appears to be the home section of the store, talking among themselves. The 13-year-old directly involved in the fight appears in a close-up as they await the arrival of the victim.
When she approaches, the two girls begin cursing and fighting, swinging and punching at one another. A few seconds later, as the other girls’ screams become frantic, blood drops fall to the floor.
“Oh, Lord Jesus Christ,” the girl filming the fight cries as they all run for the doors.
As the girls flee in a getaway car, one of them shouts that they “just stabbed somebody at Walmart.”
“We just stabbed that (expletive). We don’t give a (expletive),” the girl with the cellphone says into the camera. “We just stabbed that (expletive) in her heart.”
In a separate video segment shot as they were riding in the getaway car, a couple of the girls appear to disparage the victim. As they talk, they munch on Popsicles.
Saturday’s killing was the third homicide in Calcasieu Parish within a six-month period involving children, Mancuso said. The youngest child involved in one of the slayings was 11.
The oldest was 16.
“They come from all backgrounds, all races,” Mancuso said of the various suspects. “I just feel like we have a problem in our community that we’re going to have to face and address.”
In one of the previous cases, an 11-year-old boy was arrested Sept. 7 and charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of a relative. Andrew Lafleur III, 39, of Moss Bluff, died at the scene.
Two juveniles, ages 16 and 13, were arrested July 24 and charged with second-degree murder in the fatal shooting of Anthony Bennett. Bennett, 53, was found in the middle of a Lake Charles highway, suffering from gunshot wounds.
He died at a hospital, Calcasieu Parish authorities said. The teens were arrested following a foot pursuit.
Along with the murder charge, the 16-year-old was charged with illegal possession of a stolen firearm.
Mancuso said Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic has likely contributed to the increase in juvenile crime, but that it cannot be used as an excuse. Children are breaking the law and becoming violent, he said.
The sheriff focused the blame on parents, saying it was not a “policing issue.”
“This is a parenting issue,” he said. “I’m asking you this tonight, for our parents to take control. They have to. We can’t do this. We can arrest them — we can do that aspect of it — but it won’t solve the problem.”
Mancuso said parents who do not keep track of their children at night should start anticipating late-night phone calls and expensive court dates.
“Fed up” parish authorities are taking an “aggressive stance” about the issue, instituting a zero-tolerance policy on violators of the parish curfews, the sheriff said. Calcasieu Parish’s curfew, which applies to children under 17 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian, is 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
There are narrow exceptions, including children on an “emergency errand” or those in attendance or on the way home from at a supervised activity sponsored by a school, church, playground, recreation district or group of parents.
Juvenile violators of the curfew will be dealt with according to juvenile laws. Parents, guardians or other adults who violate the ordinance face 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Mancuso said his deputies will be getting in touch with store owners parish-wide to ensure they know their rights and responsibilities.
“You’re dropping kids off and they’re not supervised,” he said. “You can’t just go to stores and hang out if you’re not purchasing and participating in buying or legitimately doing something there.”
He said everyone, from parents to members of the community, have to step up and get involved.
“Let’s take control of our kids. All of us,” Mancuso said. “We can’t just let this happen.”
Cox Media Group