A notorious New Orleans gunman, laid low
Like Stagger Lee from the old folk song, Garelle Smith was a mythic bad man, but he was all too real.
He was a walking symbol of New Orleans' most intractable and depressing problems. The Times-Picayune, in an editorial, once called him "the beneficiary of a gummed up criminal justice system."
Police alleged that he killed James Tapp, a rapper of some national renown who went by the name Soulja Slim.
They alleged that he killed a rapper named Spencer "Funk" Smith Jr.
They alleged that he killed a rapper named Mandell Duplessis. (That post-Katrina tale was the subject of a detailed Los Angeles Times story.)
They alleged that he killed a man named Terry Brock.
But every time, Garelle Smith walked. The cases were too weak. Witnesses were afraid to come forward. No one, it seemed, wanted to take the chance of snitching on a dangerous man who would most likely be sprung in a few weeks.
Now Times-Picayune writer Brendan McCarthy reports that Garelle Smith met his end Saturday on the 3500 block of Hamburg Street in the working-class neighborhood of Gentilly, "dead of gunshot wounds to the head and chest" at age 29.
McCarthy writes that the New Orleans Police Department declined to comment on the case Monday. Details on a suspect were not forthcoming.
In many respects, the city has made great progress since Hurricane Katrina and the flood of August 2005. But it continues to be plagued with violence.
In March, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report that found the city's murder rate was 10 times higher than the national average. The report also found that the New Orleans Police Department homicide bureau was understaffed and using outdated methods.
--Richard Fausset in Atlanta
Photo: Garelle Smith, 29, in a photo obtained by the Los Angeles Times in 2007.