Carjacker who admitted to killing 12-year old no stranger to criminal justice system

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

A New Orleans man now charged with the murder of a 12-year old last month also stands accused of a brutal carjacking and an attempted armed robbery this year; crimes that could possibly have been prevented if the criminal justice system wasn’t continually spitting him back onto the streets.

According to authorities 18-year old Tyrese Harris is basically a living, breathing, crime spree who’s responsible for several heinous crimes in the area, and he’s allegedly confessed to at least one of them.

As first reported by Fox 8, 18-year-old Tyrese Harris was booked with second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Derrick Cash. Cash emerged from a stolen car in the 14000 block of Michoud Boulevard in New Orleans East on Jan. 3 and died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds, New Orleans police said.

Harris, who was arrested Sunday and accused of the brutal Feb. 1 carjacking of realtor Kelleye Rhein at the Costco fueling station, was booked with the Cash murder and the attempted armed robbery of another man’s car from a convenience store gas station on Howard Avenue on Jan. 18.

In that failed carjacking attempt, police said Harris fired shots at the would-be victim before fleeing, but dropped a cellphone at the scene that contained evidence police said linked him to the killing of Cash.

NOPD homicide detectives wrote in the affidavit that they confronted Harris with the evidence Sunday after he had been read his Miranda rights.

“During the recorded interview, Mr. Harris admitted to committing the shooting (of Cash) on Michoud Boulevard,” homicide detective Walter Edmond wrote in his sworn affidavit. “Harris stated he was armed with a .45-caliber firearm and he shot the victim several times.”

The cellphone Harris fumbled and lost during the Jan. 18 carjacking attempt also contained evidence documenting Harris’ efforts to dispose of that murder weapon, Edmond wrote.

“Harris was trying to get rid of the gun by trading it,” Edmond wrote.

Harris was also arrested and charged by police with armed robbery last September, but prosecutors refused to bring the case forward, meaning he was out on the streets when he should have been behind bars. As it turns out, however, that wasn’t the only opportunity the system had to get tough on Harris.

At an anti-crime “Rally for Peace” event on Monday, New Orleans Council President Helena Moreno said that Harris had been arrested more than a dozen times and charged with 30 separate crimes as a juvenile.

“If this is not a child screaming for intervention, then I don’t know who is,” Moreno said.

Moreno said [New Orleans Mayor LaToya] Cantrell’s office is at least partly to blame for the failure to intervene.

“When it comes to services for kids who go through the juvenile justice system here in New Orleans, it is the mayor’s office of youth and families that are responsible for those services,” Moreno said.

“The council has to jump through hoops to get a lot of things done when the mayor with just a phone call and a directive could do things now,” Moreno added.

Cantrell defended her administration, saying that it is doing everything it can to get young people out of a life of “crime and assault.” Still, she called on other parts of the city’s justice system to do more.

“They arrested this young man over and over again, and now it’s time for the other elements within our criminal justice system to do their part to ensure that our people can live freely in the City of New Orleans and not have to fear for their lives,” Cantrell said.

A whole lotta finger-pointing and blame shifting here, but the bottom line is that police had repeatedly arrested Harris over the years, and the system failed to do anything with him. Thirty separate criminal charges, and yet the 18-year old was free to roam the streets of New Orleans looking for his next victim.

Would a universal background check law, a gun ban, or any other gun control law have stopped Harris from allegedly committing dozens of criminal offenses as a juvenile? Not a chance. And the juvenile justice system, which is supposed to help rehabilitate young offenders, clearly was no help either. I don’t even think it’s accurate to say that Harris “fell through the cracks” of the system here.

No, people in positions of power and authority knew all about Harris, they knew he was continuing to rack up arrests and charges, and still nothing changed. Tyrese Harris isn’t an anomaly. His history and the long list of individuals victimized by his actions are the result of the juvenile justice system at work… and clear evidence that the system isn’t working to protect the public, rehabilitate young offenders or ensure actual consequences for their violent crimes.