Confusion over whether shots fired outside teen's memorial

HCSO reports shots fired, pastor denies

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

SPRING - There are conflicting reports as to whether several gunshots were fired outside a memorial service being held for the 17-year-old Spring High School student who was killed last week.

Harris County sheriff's officials said shots were fired near the end of the service, while the church's pastor insists no such incident took place.

Dozens of people crowded into the Spring Baptist Church for a memorial service honoring 17-year-old Joshua Broussard, who was stabbed to death on Wednesday as part of what detectives characterized as a gang rivalry. Near the end of that service, sheriff's officials said what appeared to be an extension of that rivalry led to an altercation inside the church and continued into the parking lot.

"(They) came inside the auditorium, was causing a disturbance. Spring ISD police was able to get them outside in the parking lot," said Sgt. Milton Coker with the Harris County Sheriff's Office. "Once outside, one of the sergeants with Spring ISD police heard approximately eight gunshots."

Coker said no one was hurt and no bullet casings were found. Coker said no one saw who fired the shots and no one was arrested. The sheriff's office also issued a news release stating shots were fired outside the service.

The church's pastor, Mark Estep, said he was in the parking lot when there was what he described as a quick scuffle between three people, but is adamant there was no fight inside the church and that no gunshots were ever fired.

"I don't know if they were going by just pure hearsay, but there was no substance to anything that was said," said Estep. "There were no shots fired, no casings have been found. There was no investigation because there was no need for one."

Word of any potential tension over last week's stabbing further unnerved students who were already apprehensive about going back to class for the first time since Broussard's death.

"What's your biggest concern about going back?" asked Local 2's Robert Arnold.

"Violence and stuff," said Spring High School student Kadayvien Lockhart. "People being worried and scared."

"It's going to be different, it's going to be sad bro," said student Jess Wells. "Just think about walking down the hall where your homie just took his last breathe, it's crazy."

"I really don't want to, it's hard," said student Kayla Terrell. "They expect us to go in there and eat where he died at."

Students will be facing increased security measures when returning to class on Monday.

School officials said students will have to pass through metal detectors, they will only be allowed to use two entrances to the school rather the normal 15 and students will only be allowed to carry either clear backpacks or a "Ziploc-type bag" on campus. School officials said they will be receiving a shipments of clear backpacks this week and will provide the backpacks at no charge to students.

Starting Wednesday, school officials will also be hosting a series of five meetings with parents. The meetings will address the new security measures at the school and answer any questions from parents. 

Hours before Broussard's memorial service, community leaders gathered to ask Spring ISD officials to examine what they believe is a deep racial divide between African-American and Hispanic students.

"The racial divide and the perception of such a divide has not been addressed," said Deric Muhammad with the Millions More Movement.

"If the root of the problem is that the Latinos and the African Americans cannot get along then we need the healing," said attorney Sadiyah Evangelista.

"The black on Mexican fights, if you will, have been going on for quite some time," said Tressa McLane, who graduated from Spring High School in 2009. "It has never been this bad but it has been to the point it has been scary to come to school."

"Our kids have to know that there is no return from death," said Marta Diaz with the League of United Latin American Citizens. "You can fix everything else, but death, there is no return."

Seventeen-year-old Luis Alfaro was arrested following the stabbing that killed Broussard and injured three other students. Alfaro is charged with one count of murder.

According to records filed with the Texas Education Agency, there were five incidents of gang violence reported at Spring High School during the 2011-2012 school year, the last year for which statistics were available. The report filed with the state also noted 105 "fighting/mutual combat" incidents and five incidents involving knives.

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