12/31/06: As reported on KPLC-TV:
Just days before he was to take office, the body of Westlake Mayor-Elect Gerald Washington was found outside the old Mossville High School on Old Spanish Trail. According to authorities with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, the 9-1-1 call came in at 9:49 p.m. from a motorist passing the school who said they saw a body on the ground of the parking lot.
Calcasieu Sheriff’s crime scene investigators arrived and found the body of a black male with a single gun shot wound. The body was later identified as Washington. The Calcasieu Coronor’s Office is performing an autospy to determine the cause of death.
Westlake City Councilmen Bob Hardey and Danny Cupit were notified and came to the scene. Both say they had spoken to Washington the day before and recall him being excited about taking office.
“It was a total shock to everyone. We are a newly-elected bunch and “Wash” was going to be taking office on Tuesday,” said Hardey. “We’re missing a good friend and hopefully we’ll get through this.”
“It’s Really hard to believe. It’s a tremendous shock. We were looking forward to the next four years. I think we all had a good chemistry between the city council and the new mayor,” said Cupit.
The City Council is now looking at the next step to appoint a new mayor. They say they have three options: Elect a mayor pro-temp; Governor Kathleen Blanco could appoint one; or outgoing Mayor Dudley Dixon could remain in office until a special election could be held. Hardey says they plan to have a meeting on Tuesday to discuss all options.
There are conflicting reports regarding whether or not Washington had already assumed the office of mayor. KLFY reported that Washington was to be sworn in January 1st; KALB reported that Washington had taken the oath of office on December 19th.
This is also worth noting. From KLFY’s report:
Outgoing mayor, Dudley Dixon, who chose not to run for re-election, says Washington was an experienced member of the city council who worked for the betterment of everyone regardless of their color.
Dixon says this is a community that is 80% white and it overlooked the prejudice of race and put the man that was best fit for the job into that position. He says everyone hoped everything was going to work out for the town and unfortunately, he has been taken away.