Do you know who killed Malik Pratt? Law enforcement officers are convinced someone does, probably more than just one someone. No one is talking, though, out of fear or distrust of authority or misguided loyalty to a peer group.
A La Marque resident, Pratt was shot dead on April 11, 2016, in the parking lot of a banquet hall in the 300 block of Laurel Street. He was 18.
Witnesses told police there had been an exchange of gunfire between people in two vehicles before Pratt’s death. No arrests have been made. His death is still under investigation.
Pratt’s name was back in the news last week in connection to 10 shootings in La Marque and Texas City during May.
Those 10 include a May 26 shooting in the 200 block of Sarlee Drive in La Marque. Deon Stewart, 30, died at a hospital after someone fired several shots into his residence.
The count also includes a May 11 shooting at the Valero gas station at the intersection of FM 1765 and Vauthier Road in La Marque in which a man was wounded; a May 14 shooting in the 6800 block of Memorial Drive in Texas City in which a 44-year-old man suffered a gunshot wound when someone in a dark gray Chevy Impala fired three shots; and another May 14 shooting in the 7400 block of Carver Avenue in Texas City in which a 20-year-old man was wounded in the leg when someone in a black SUV fired at least 20 rounds at a group of people in and around a Chevy Impala.
As with Pratt’s death, nobody’s talking about who did these shootings, police said.
Law enforcement officers and community leaders and activists interviewed for the article by a Daily News reporter agreed the shootings are part of a feud among “rap crews” that began with Pratt’s death.
They disagreed a little about how to define the groups involved, but they all agreed about the spark that lit the fuse.
“I think this started with rap rivalries that quickly turned violent,” said Nakisha Paul, a member of the Texas City Independent School District Board of Trustees and a longtime community activist. “It’s been happening for years.”
Law officers suspect other unsolved shootings and some homicides also are part of a string of violence stretching back to the shot that took Pratt’s life.
“I haven’t seen it this bad since the gang wars in the 1990s in this area,” La Marque Police Chief Kirk Jackson said.
However you describe the groups — gangs or crews or collections of misguided youth, some as young as 14 — they seem bonded in part by guns, said Tyerre El Amin Boyd, a lifelong Galveston County resident and former convict who’s using his experience in gangs to reach out to those engaged in violence now.
“A lot of them are just walking around with weapons,” he said.
The crews have more guns than the police, Galveston Precinct 3 Constable Derreck Rose agreed.
People in La Marque and Texas City obviously are concerned about the violence.
Paul is a member of a task force along with other local officials, such as Rose, Texas City Commissioner Phil Roberts, La Marque Commissioners Earl Alexander and Keith Bell and others whose goal is to work for the community and reach out to the leaders of these groups.
“Our community is scared and concerned,” Bell said. “I stand with them in fear and concern. That’s why it’s important that we act now.
“How did we get here?” Bell asked. “What are our goals? We want to see if we can make progress with them, understand their concerns and what their agendas are, so that we can help facilitate them outside of the gangs and the guns.”
Reaching out to the youth and holding rallies against violence are good and the whole community should support those efforts, just as many have supported recent demands for police reforms after the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
We also agree with Jackson who said the first step to ending the violence in La Marque and Texas City is to make those responsible for it face justice.
“The rallies, the vigils to stop violence are important,” Jackson said. “But readers of this story are going to know people who are involved in this. And they need to make sure that their loved ones hear that the community is not going to put up with this anymore. That’s what it’s going to take.”
But law enforcement alone can’t solve this problem. That’s going to take a deeper, longer look at what society, community and family are failing to provide as an alternative to a culture of violence.
• Michael A. Smith