KSLA News 12 Investigates: The cost of a bullet

The amount of shootings and homicides in Shreveport during 2016. (Source: KSLA News 12)
The amount of shootings and homicides in Shreveport during 2016. (Source: KSLA News 12)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Shreveport police investigated nearly 200 shootings and almost 50 homicides in 2016. The bullets do the deadly damage cost less than a dollar each, but the cost is so much more.

In 2016, the Shreveport Police Department's Homicide and Violent Crimes Unit reported 199 shootings and 46 homicides. One of those deaths was Wendy Benjamin's son Leatrick.

"He was just a good guy, you know. A loveable guy. My guy. My son. My oldest child," said Benjamin.

Her son was one of 8 people who was shot at a tire shop in May after an after-hours card game.

"He was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Benjamin. "He didn't even get the chance to place the cards. They said he had just walked in."

Leatrick and another man were killed in the shooting. The others were taken to the hospital.

"They were all brought here," said LSU Doctor John Owings, who oversees the trauma team at University Health hospital.

Dr. Owings said he was working the night of that fatal shooting.

"One thing I do remember is, nobody had a single gunshot wound. Everybody was hit more than one time."

When a person is shot, paramedics and EMTs first arrive on the scene to stabilize the victim. Once at the hospital, doctors and nurses immediately go to work.

"One of the rules of dealing with gunshot wounds is the number of bullets and the number of holes always has to add up to an even number," said Dr. Owings.

The costs of those bullets add up. A 9 mm bullet costs about 25 cents. According to a study by the Family Medicine and Community Health journal, the average cost of treatment, surgery, and care for gunshot victims is about $22,000. Add that up for the 199 shootings in Shreveport during 2016, and it totals about $4,378,000.

"It's literally a life and death issue to have the trauma center because, without it, you don't have those resources available when you need them," said Dr. Owings.

Despite all the hard work the trauma team puts in, patients don't always make it. Sometimes they end up in a morgue. Then not only are families mourning their loved ones, they're also faced with the enormous expense of burying them.

"When a family loses a loved one to gun violence they come in in shock. They're angry, they're upset," said Allen Dave, the president of Winnfield Funeral Home in Shreveport. He says the average cost of a funeral is about $9,000.

"When you have a victim of crime and there is no insurance sometimes the funerals may be extended out maybe 7 to 10 days versus 3 to 7 days. The families just need more time to come up with resources."

The emotional toll of violence on a family is one thing, but the financial burden is another. The average costs of the funerals for the 46 Shreveport homicide victims adds up to about $414,000.

"You take a person away from their family, but still you don't know what you're doing to the family that's left behind," said Benjamin.

For Wendy Benjamin's family, that includes her son's 5 kids.

"They're left behind and they still have to be taken care of."

She said she has a message for the people responsible for all the shootings.

"Stop. Stop the killing. Stop the shootings. Put the guns down."

Shreveport police say of all the deaths caused by gunfire, 23 were solved by arrest or "cleared as justified," but the murder of Wendy's son was not.

Wendy says her son's friends are hosting a Stop the Violence basketball tournament in his honor at Booker T Washington High School.

"Maybe it's something positive that they can come together and do. Instead of always negative, negative, negative. Maybe this can be the start of something. Maybe this will be the start of something, or somebody else can do something. You never know who you're helping by doing this."

Benjamin says the tournament is scheduled for March 11 but no time has been set yet.

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