The national news media has picked up the story about the death of Gerald Washington, the mayor of Westlake, Louisiana, a small community located near Lake Charles. It was recently reported that Mr. Washington committed suicide, but this claim has been met with rampant suspicion. From the AP report:

“This is the South, so of course everybody’s going to say it was some white guy shooting a black guy,” said Dr. Terry Welke, the Calcasieu Parish coroner who ruled that Washington killed himself.

Welke said soot from the pistol was deep in the wound, indicating the gun was touching Washington’s chest when the trigger was pulled. That, he said, suggested suicide. He also said that while most gunfire suicides involve a bullet to the head, it is not unusual for people to kill themselves with a shot to the chest.

But the coroner and the sheriff have offered no reason for why Washington would have killed himself. No suicide note was found. And there is no evidence he bade farewell to anyone, put his financial affairs in order, or gave any other indication he was about to kill himself, authorities said.

Washington’s son, Geroski, accused the sheriff’s office of doing a sloppy job, and asked the state police to take over the investigation.

“We were dissatisfied with the time frame of the investigation and the way it was opened and closed. We’re thinking it’s a cover-up because of the quick and fast work they did and didn’t do,” he told the American Press, the local newspaper.

State police entered the case earlier this week and took the body to Baton Rouge for another autopsy. The state police said it is interviewing friends of Washington’s family, but it would not otherwise comment on the investigation.

Family members are not the only ones suspicious. Many in the blogosphere have asserted that Washington’s death was, in fact, a murder and that his behavior earlier that day was not indicative of someone who was depressed or suicidal. The coroner, however, is sticking by his report and believes that the skepticism it has generated is due, in part, to shock.

“Almost every case of suicide is like that,” he said. “Suicides give us more grief than anything else.”

That explanation hasn’t dampened rumors in town, particularly among blacks, that it should be a murder case.

“Someone lured him to Mossville,” said Pat Hartman, 61, a lifelong resident of Mossville, the neighboring town where she and Washington went to school. “Why would he want to go to Mossville, to kill himself at his alma mater?”

“That boy didn’t kill himself. Somebody killed him.”

10 thoughts

  1. Lamar, If Mr. Washington was killed by a black man rather than by suicide, how would you characterize the murder? He seems to have been well liked by the white residents of the town. Perhaps an angry black man killed him, upset that he was so well liked by whites.

  2. William, I have not characterized the alleged murder; the notion that it was racially motivated was presented by the Associated Press in their headline, Racist Murder or Suicide, which I have simply quoted.

  3. Sorry Lamar. I thought that might have been the case, but wasn’t sure. Nevertheless, it does seem unwarranted.

    FWIW, the time is incorrect on these posts.

  4. I believe that the calcasieu sheriff’s offices do sloppy jobs myself.For example my brother was arrested for arm robbery.The time the store was being rob, my brother was at my sister house sleeping.At no time he left her house to go and rob a store.they arrested him and charge him with arm robbery.so they turn around and use this aginst him because he also had some misminder charge on him so they said he rob store.The calcasieu sheriff’s are so sorry when it comes to slove case they always go to their first assumption,they never look for other clues.The hurting thing was when my mother in law call and told the DA what was going on.her ass. told my mother -in law that they was going to find a picture of my brother from his other arrested they was going to use that picture to try and match that tape of my brother.so in other words they were going to make it work against my brother no matter what. when my mother in law heard that we hire a lawyer she call me and told me that she was not going to testifed against these people because they being to good to her. and her 12 years old granda son heard her tell me that. so we hired a lawyer and seen the tape,you could not make the face out at all.the tape was so bad you could not tell who was on that tape.so the calcasieu sheriff’s offices use a old picture of my brother and show the lady that picture and she said that was him. that let you know that innocent people do go to jail for a crimes that they do not do. my faimly and I are so hurt because we could not afford to pay his lawyer out so she had to drop my brother case. we know he didn’t do this but when you are poor and can’t afford a good lawyer you suffer. I do not have faith in our crimmial system. because they are send innocent people to jail. going by the first assumption and using old picture in their line up for people to pick out. I won’t every body to hear my story.

  5. I believe that the calcasieu sheriff’s offices do sloppy jobs myself.For example my brother was arrested for arm robbery.The time the store was being rob, my brother was at my sister house sleeping.At no time did he leave her house to go and rob a store.they arrested him and charge him with arm robbery.So they turn around and use this aginst him because he also had some misminder charge on him so they said he rob a store.The calcasieu sheriff’s are so sorry when it comes to slove cases they always go to their first assumption,they never look for other clues.The hurting thing was when my mother in law call and told the DA what was going on.her ass,told my mother -in law that they was going to find a picture of my brother from his other arrested. they was going to use that picture to try and match that tape of my brother.so in other words they were going to make it work against my brother no matter what.When my mother- in -law heard that we hireing a lawyer she called me and told me that she was not going to testifed against these people, because they being to good to her. and her 12 years old granda son heard her tell me that. so we hired a lawyer and seen the tape,you could not make the face out at all.the tape was so bad you could not tell who was on that tape.so the calcasieu sheriff’s offices use a old picture of my brother and show the lady that picture and she said that was him.That tell you know that innocent people do go to jail for crimes that they do not do.My faimly and I are so hurt because we could not afford to pay his lawyer out so she had to drop my brother case.We know he didn’t do this but when you are poor and can’t afford a good lawyer you suffer. I do not have faith in our crimmial system. because they are sending innocent people to jail.Going by the first assumption and using old picture in their line up for people to pick out. I won’t every body to hear my story.

  6. Why does it have to be “Racist Murder” or “Suicide?” Why couldn’t he have been murdered for any of the thousands of other reasons a person gets murdered for?
    Let’s not forget: besides being a black man, Mr. Washington was a politician – and when politicians get murdered, it’s usually not about race.
    Maybe instead of looking at Mr. Washington’s ethnicity we should look instead to his political views – who had to gain from his death? Answer that question and you’re a big step closer to solving the crime, if indeed a crime is what happened.
    But yeah, looks like murder to me – who’s the coroner?

  7. In researching information about our small community, I ran across this article. What a horrible time for our small city. The death of Mr. Washington momentarily put a strain between the races here. Unfortunately, that way of thinking was just NOT something Mr. Washington would have wanted. He was for unity of all races as God would have it. I have not read ONE article that reminds America that the city of Westlake is a majority white community. The WHITE people elected Gerald as Mayor and were looking forward to the wonderful new vision he had for ALL of us. I happen to have been a personal friend of Gerald’s and was just as shocked as anyone to hear of his untimely death. My immediate thought was that someone HAD to have killed him. The siucide was just too much to understand or comprehend. Since this was written, the State Police have brought to light many personal problems that Mr. Washington was facing and have also ruled his death a suicide. I’m sure it’s hard for any family member to believe their loved one has taken their own life, especially with someone with such a kind heart and great potential like Wash.
    It seems that everyone has lost interest in this story now that the racial card has been removed from the story. It’s a shame how the press loves to add fuel to the racists’ arguments instead of embracing those of us who love and respect our cultural differences.
    By the way, I just happen to have white skin for those of you that find that so very important. I, like most people in Westlake (black and white), miss Wash dearly.

  8. Thank you for your kind comment and contribution.

    With all due respect, sir, many media outlets reported that Westlake is a majority white community, including the initial KLFY report. Mayor Washington was obviously a very respected community leader, which is why his violent death became a statewide news story.

    From KLFY:

    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.

    Incidentally, this blog also mentioned that fact in the first post about Mayor Washington:

    https://cenlamar.wordpress.com/2007/01/02/westlake-mayor-elect-found-dead/

  9. I see from the date of your last comment that you are still interested in this case. I was wondering if any progress had been made in identifying the person who shot Major Washington. I have no ties to that case but I feel that his was not a suicide. Everything leading up to the shooting would seem to indicate that he had a lot to live for.
    My curiousity also stems from the circumstances of my fathers death in East Texas. It too took place in a school parking lot. He was also shot in the chest. A life-long hunter he knew how to handle guns. He would have had to hold his own rifle at arms lenght with the barrel to his chest and push the trigger.
    The small town sheriff ruled the death an accident. I still don’t believe it. Are there just some mysteries that are never solved?

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