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‘You took my world away from me’: Grandmother of 15 killed in Morris Jeff graduation shooting

A crime scene.
iStockphoto.com

Augustine Greenwood, 80, had just watched her youngest grandson graduate from high school when shots rang out outside Xavier University’s convocation center late Tuesday morning.

Greenwood’s son-in-law, Corey Lashley Sr., told NOLA.com that the family was walking to their car when he heard gunshots and noticed his mother-in-law had been shot.

Police said Greenwood was transported by New Orleans EMS to a local hospital where she died of her injuries.

Greenwood’s daughter, Geraldine Greenwood-Lashley, shared a photo of her mother on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon, which she said was taken minutes before the shooting started. The picture shows Greenwood, a mother of 6 and grandmother of 15, wearing a blue floral dress and matching cardigan, her purple face mask adorned with fabric roses, at the Morris Jeff Community School graduation ceremony.

“Due to these people taking it to another level, I can’t call my mom,” Greenwood-Lashley wrote. “I was always happy to call her and she would say ‘I just took my medicine. I ate and I am watching Hallmark.’”

Greenwood-Lashley also addressed the people responsible for the shooting directly.

“It was graduation for my son. My mom was so happy to see her youngest grandchild graduate,” she wrote. “You have ruined my son and family's world. All you had to do was walk away.”

Police have yet to release more details on the shooting that took Greenwood’s life and also put two others, a man and male juvenile, in the hospital with non life-threatening injuries after the Morris Jeff graduation ceremony.

Shots were fired shortly before noon when the parking lot was full of cap and gown-clad Morris Jeff Community School students and their families.

A fight between two women broke out in the parking lot shortly after the ceremony wrapped and just before multiple rounds rang out. Goodly confirmed the fight, but did not say whether either of the women involved in the altercation was the shooter.

Three people were taken in for questioning, but police had not publicly released information on any arrests or the identity of the shooter as of Wednesday. Investigators also confiscated more than one weapon at the scene Tuesday.

“This unfortunate incident did not have to happen,” Goodly said during the Tuesday press conference, noting that both NOPD and Xavier’s police officers provided security inside and outside of the convocation center.

Morris Jeff Community School was scheduled to begin its graduation ceremony at the center at 10 a.m., according to a press release. Nearly 90 graduates were expected to attend and Mayor LaToya Cantrell was scheduled to speak.

School board president Olin Parker described the shooting in a Facebook post Tuesday as “senseless, tragic and infuriating.”

“Kids in this country should be able to graduate without wondering if they or their loved ones will be victims of gun violence,” Parker wrote. “These students did everything that was asked of them, and deserved their one damn day of joy. The proud grandmother who was killed deserved to celebrate this day — and many more — with her family.”

Xavier University’s convocation center hosts multiple high school graduation ceremonies each spring.

This is not the first graduation ceremony to turn violent this season. A large fight broke out inside Xavier University’s convocation center on May 20 shortly after students from G.W. Carver High School received their diplomas.

Video shows two groups of people punching, shoving and throwing chairs at one another.

No shots were fired, but police arrested 23-year-old Malik Washington at the scene with illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, illegally carrying a weapon, bringing a firearm to a school function and with violating the terms of his probation.

The NOPD distributed the images of three other male suspects in connection with the incident.

The day before, three people were shot and a fourth person was injured when gunfire broke out at a high school graduation on Southeastern Louisiana University’s campus.

Hammond High Magnet had just finished its ceremony and families were leaving the university’s activity center when shots rang out, according to reports.

Local police arrested Trent Thomas, 20, shortly after the shooting and said at the time that more arrests were possible.

Thomas is charged with three counts of attempted second-degree murder, obstruction of justice, aggravated damage to property and possession of a firearm on a gun-free campus.

Hammond police chief Edwin Bergeron told reporters that the shooting resulted from a possible gang-affiliated altercation between Thomas and a group of people, including an unidentified juvenile who used to attend the Hammond high school.

Bergeron said that the three people who were shot were “innocent bystanders” and that their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.

Governor John Bel Edwards addressed both high school graduation shootings in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“We must do more to ensure that those who pose an unacceptable risk of harm to others aren’t able to acquire or keep firearms,” Edwards said, adding in light of recent gun violence in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, “gun safety discussions and action involving expanded background checks and red flag laws are very much in order.”

Parker, the school board president, said the district will work closely with Morris Jeff and the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans to coordinate support services for “all who have been touched by this horrible act of violence.”

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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