Another murderer taken off the street. Another case resolved.
This is how we handle killers now, especially gang members – we identify them, publicize their names and faces, and then leave them on the streets until they are killed by their own.
Saves police time and court costs. Just send out the wagon and pick up the bodies.
Local headlines today noted the murder of an 18-year-old man who was himself wanted for killing two other "gangbangers" on Christmas night 2007. Four additional people were also wounded in that first shooting, as the thin wooden walls of a traditional New Orleans "shotgun"-style house were repeatedly raked by extended bursts of fire from an assault rifle.
Police tagged Eldrin George as the shooter. He was already dubbed the "Mole Robber" because of a large blemish on his face, and thus had been easily identified in over a dozen violent armed robberies during an earlier one-week binge in mid-December, and a number of other murders and burglaries, plus two incidents of auto theft and a bust on heroin possession, all within the last six months.
A police photo of George staring down the mugshot camera has been circulating across the city for weeks, presumably released by the NOPD, and chatter on the street and Web identified him some time ago as the perpetrator in the gang shooting. Police have been searching in earnest for a person now tagged as one of the city's highest-profile criminals, even storming a Mississippi River ferry when they thought he was aboard. He was not.
Eldrin George and his mole have been underground since those Christmas murders.
And now comes another dead man. Shot to death gang-style.
A body with a large mole under his right ear is brought to the New Orleans Coroner.
At first the only clue to the identity of the criminal is that prominent birthmark. But then a name is attached to the mole. It is that same dangerous teenager named Eldrin George.
The attorney who represented him in the heroin possession and stolen vehicle cases claimed that he did not know of his client's other activities. He was quoted just yesterday as saying that George was "always polite and well-dressed."
The lawyer had not seen the flyers with the mugshot. George was being sought "in connection with" multiple murders and other felonies. But everyone in the neighborhood knew the gangbanger was him. The dude with the mole. The dude in the picture. The dude with Attitude.
Word was that retaliation for that Attitude was inevitable.
Yesterday his street sentence was handed down. His fate, however, was an inefficient execution, and though he was shot multiple times in the chest and legs, George was still able to run half a block before collapsing and then bleeding to death two hours later in an emergency room.
That was yesterday.
Today, most everything above is a lie.
Today George is not dead.
Eldrin George had tightly-cut hair and a goatee and a mole under his ear larger than an inch in diameter. Altheus Myers had tightly-cut hair and a goatee and a mole under his ear less than an inch in diameter.
Myers is dead, George is not.
Or so police now say. Though only 24 hours ago over half a dozen proud "police sources" were extolling the street justice in the violent death of one of the City's most wanted murderers. Today those same sources are quiet, and official spokespeople acknowledge that the victim was Myers, though they now contend that he was indeed the intended prey, and was not a victim of mistaken identity.
So far they have come up with no criminal record to justify that claim. There is only the mugshot. A guy with a buzz-cut. And a goatee. And a mole.
Just like in their picture.
Myers was in the process of moving, with his mother, out of the crime-riddled Central City neighborhood where he died. The family was relocating to the quieter Westbank of New Orleans, to a neighborhood that did not flood during Katrina. By the first of next month they were to be in a new home, out of harm's way. But yesterday, yesterday Altheus Myers walked to the corner store and never came back.
His picture did not accompany the news of his death.
Interesting, this game of murderous musical chairs. George perceives some slight received from rivals. The music starts up. The man with the mole then shoots up the house of that rival gang, killing and wounding half a dozen total. A chair is pulled out, and the music continues. A picture of a guy with a mole shows up on the street, saying the NOPD is after him. The guy looks tough. Another chair is pulled out. The offended gang tracks and guns down a man with a mole, but it is not theman with the mole, and they merely end up spawning another, divergent burst of vengeance and hate from the family of the victim. Another chair, more music.
Meanwhile, George figures out that his original enemies were of course really trying to murder him, so he goes back to his arsenal to try and get rid of the shooters before they succeed. More music, fewer chairs.
He is still out there. On the streets.
Eldrin George has a mole under his ear.
And now, folks, there are no chairs left.
Copyright ©2008 Jim Gabour
[POSTSCRIPT from Jim Gabour]:
"Here is a collage of pix I took on the way home from school, all on the same small block – the 2500 block of General Taylor Street – in the heart of the Central City neighborhood where the murder mentioned in this article happened.
"We're two and a half years after the storm [Katrina], and three of these once-livable apartment houses haven't been touched, except by squatters and drug dealers. Two of the houses were gutted to get the vermin out, then just left empty until governmental aid could be found; and two homeowners are working on their houses as they manage to exist day-to-day in the tiny FEMA trailers visible in the pictures, amidst the gunfire, all these months later.
"Ruins of life … temple of death … mortal musical chairs."