MANSFIELD, Louisiana – Hikes and special events will take place in DeSoto Parish as a committee reviews changes to the licensing process.
Police jurors voted 6 to 5 at a special meeting on Tuesday not to impose a temporary moratorium on events despite problems during the Big W Trail Ride on Saturday in Gran Cane.
The vote came after nearly two hours of commentary from Gran Cane residents and trek organizers.
But before the discussion began, a five-minute video was shown to the large crowd in the police jury room. It was a compilation of the body cameras of the Sheriff’s deputies and the dash cameras of the Saturday patrol units.
The video showed crowds of people parked and walking on Blunt Mill Road, then showed the overcrowded event site on Whitaker’s property in Andy Lane. He also captured the moment when MPs arrested a man accused of pointing a gun at MPs and then showed the crowd running when a gunshot rang out.
This gunshot injured a man, whom the deputies had to physically evacuate from the site of the event because an ambulance was unable to get there. The man was placed in a patrol car and then taken to a waiting ambulance.
Authorities estimate that more than 7,000 people were dispersed from the site of the event to the village of Gran Cane, where trespassing on private property and property damage have been reported. Event planners fought back; however, the crowd was no more than 4,000, the figure being based on the number of armbands sold at the gate.
Rev. Fredrick Fuller, who is involved in other hikes, said what happened on Saturday does not represent the actual hikes. The rides started out as a family event but have changed.
“It’s not us,” he said.
Missy Lawrence, who lives on Blunt Mill Road, said she and her neighbors don’t call for special events to end, only for a temporary stop until permits are put in place. The current police jury permit simply requires the applicant to pay a fee of $ 250 for receiving a permit for a 10 day event.
It’s up to the organizers to keep the unruly people out, she said.
The mayor of Gran Cane, Marshal Richardson, complained about a lack of communication. She didn’t know the hike was on, saying “we were caught off guard”.
Alderman Clayton Davis recounted how he must have turned his head when he saw a car full of women parked in front of his house come out and one of them pulled down her pants to urinate. Her son, who lives two blocks away, said a woman visited his home and asked if he would take $ 60 to babysit his three children while she made her way to the trailhead.
“What happened in front of me was wrong,” Davis said.
Big W Trail Ride organizer Wendell Whitaker admitted their event had grown too big for their homestead. He apologized and asked anyone in Gran Cane who had suffered property damage to contact him.
Collis Boyd and Xavier Foster, who also run hikes, have apologized to residents of Gran Cane. Boyd said some of the hikes turned into “gangster events,” but he asked police jurors not to punish those who try to offer something fun to their friends and family.
Further apologies came from Andre Wilson, president of the Northwest Trail Riders Association.
“It’s not us,” he said of what happened on Saturday.
He also asked police jurors not to wash away the trails. “We’re going to fix it. … Anyway, we don’t want these people, ”he said of the“ strangers ”disrupting their events.
Another Gran Cane owner, Tammy Kennedy, agreed that she and her neighbors weren’t there to call for an end to the hikes, only to illegal activity. She briefly recounted how the trail crowd arrived at their homestead, urinated in the yard, peeked out windows, left clothes and needles.
Some have criticized Sheriff Jayson Richardson, who told KTBS on Monday that none of his deputies had volunteered to work as a security guard for the hike due to the increasing violence associated with the events. Thus, Richardson explained that he was not obligated to ensure the security of a private and lucrative event.
He said he would not make his assistants work for an event where they do not feel safe. Events, he said, have gone from friends of family to “out of control,” and appropriate policies must be in place to govern futures.
Police jury chairman Reggie Roe told KTBS on Monday that if the panel did not vote to put a moratorium in place, it would consider declaring a state of emergency. Some jurors at the meeting challenged Roe’s authority to declare the emergency. After the meeting, Roe said the vote will stand.
Police juror Kyle Kennington wanted to impose a moratorium on special events with an attendance of over 500 people for 45 days to give his policy / procedures committee time to come up with guidelines for special event permits. He said he has copies of ordinances from other parishes as examples.
“It will affect every event,” he said.
But his motion was not put to a vote after police juror Thomas Jones brought forward an alternate motion to let events continue while the study process is underway.
Thomas Jones, Richard Fuller, Ernel Jones, Jeri Burrell, Rodriguez Ross and Keith Parker voted against a moratorium. Kennington, Dewayne Mitchell, Jimmy Holmes Reggie Roe and Greg Baker voted for it.
“We shouldn’t mess up what worked,” said Ernel Jones.
Burrell said changes need to be made, but for this to work some will have to make sacrifices.
Baker said the police jury was back to where it was in 2019 when issues with excessive crowds on some of the hikes began to surface. There are people who attend the events that “you don’t want to, but I don’t know how we as a police jury can stop them,” he said.
Mitchell called for a show of hands from those in the audience who have planned upcoming hikes or other events. Three said they did, but said their crowd should be around 400-600 people.
Richardson said there were three events this weekend – two rides and a car show. Another full-scale hike is announced for the July 4th weekend.