Like so many at today’s Silence is Violence memorial to murder victims on the steps of City Hall, Belinda Henderson had a personal reason for being there. Her son, Gerald Howard Jr., was murdered on September 11, 2007, one of the more than 200 people killed in New Orleans that year. To date, the New Orleans Police Department has not solved Howard’s slaying.

     “No. They’re slow in doing things,” Henderson says.

     The memorial, a reading of the names of the 177 people murdered in the city from January 11, 2008 to January 8, 2009, began at noon, and a crowd of more than 100 stood silently as the names were read off. Councilmen James Carter and Arnie Fielkow attended the event as did Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, and the three men assisted in reading out loud the names of the deceased.

     Henderson wondered why other community leaders weren’t present.

     “The mayor and the chief of police aren’t out here. Where are they?”


Cannizzaro says he’s very concerned about violent crime, and pointed out with a murder for almost every day in 2009, the city isn’t off “to a very good start.” He wants his office to contact witnesses to violent crime right away, and not wait to get their names from the police, which can take as long as 60 days after the crime has occurred.

     “We want to work with witnesses early, so they’re not intimidated and their stories don’t change,” Cannizzaro says.

     Henderson agrees with Cannizzaro, and hopes because of today’s events,more eyewitnesses and others will come forward and share what they know about specific crimes. She feels, however, NOPD has to do more.

     She says the first NOPD detective assigned to her son’s murder led her to believe he was close to solving the case. Later, she found out the detective hadn’t even conducted an investigation, and a new detective was placed in charge of investigating the crime. Henderson wants to know how the case is progressing, but says the detective refuses to update her.

     “It’s next to impossible to get someone to call you back,” Henderson says.

     The memorial ended about 45 minutes after it began, and Henderson, wearing a t-shirt with her son’s face on it, walked back to her car.

     “I miss my son. Everyday, I miss my son,” she says.


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