OPSB school shooting trial begins in Orleans Parish

Alejandro de los Rios Oct. 12, 2010, 5:00am

A liability suit involving a 2003 school shooting at a New Orleans high school began Oct. 11 in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.

Orleans residents Valerie Barracks, Angela Robair, Johnnie Brown, Keva Jackson, Michelle Brown and Gloria Williams are suing the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) on behalf of their children who were victims and witnesses to a 2003 school shooting at John McDonogh 28 high school, which resulted in one death and three injuries.

New Orleans attorneys Roy Rodney Jr., Norlisha Parker Burke and John Etter are representing the OPSB. The New Orleans city attorney's office is representing the NOPD.

New Orleans attorneys Clifford Cardone, Patricia Dean, Peter Derbes and Metairie attorney Clement Donelon are representing the plaintiffs. Cardone filed Barracks' original petition for damages in April 2003. That case was consolidated with suits filed by Robair, Brown and Williams.

Orleans Parish Judge Robin Giarusso presides. She recently denied several defense motions to continue due to the absence of plaintiff Michelle Brown, who was not found in time for depositions with defense counsel. Giarusso ruled to sever Brown's claims and continue with the rest of the plaintiffs' claims on time.

A central issue in this case involves the John McDonogh 28 high school's liability in preventing the three armed shooters from entering school grounds and eventually opening fire with an AK-47 assault rifle during a gym class. Plaintiffs claim the defendants "were aware of, but failed to remedy, the very deficiencies in campus security that were exploited by the shooters."

The suit cites close to 700 pages of police reports indicating violent gang activity surrounding McDonogh 28. A TIME magazine article in 2006 detailed the strained relationship between New Orleans residents and the NOPD. The article noted that, though there were 150 witnesses in the gym at the time of the shooting, police questions were regarded with "shrugs and stares."

The NOPD is currently under federal investigation. After hurricane Katrina, the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) assumed control over John McDonogh. The OPSB is also currently a named defendant in a class action suit brought by former employees after they were let go after the RSD's takeover.

Orleans Parish Case 2003-06336

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