Crime

Neighborhood shootings force Biloxi sitter, toddlers indoors

Biloxi resident Tonya Pruitt keeps the three children she babysits indoors because of recent shootings at the apartment complex across the street on Rodenberg Avenue north of the railroad tracks.
Biloxi resident Tonya Pruitt keeps the three children she babysits indoors because of recent shootings at the apartment complex across the street on Rodenberg Avenue north of the railroad tracks. calee@sunherald.com

Violence has gotten so bad at the duplexes on Rodenberg Avenue that babysitter Tonya Pruitt keeps three toddlers inside or near the front door, even on sunny days when they could be sliding or pulling a wagon in the fenced backyard.

At 4 a.m. Thursday, two men and a woman were shot outside the row of duplexes that run between the railroad tracks and Pass Road across from the rental house where Pruitt lives. Pruitt stood at her barred door, talking to a friend who dropped by to visit and was urging her to move.

“I didn’t hear nothing,” Pruitt said. “When I got up, I didn’t see anything but blue lights and police and ambulances everywhere.”

Police Chief John Miller said the men and the woman shot were all taken to Merit Health Biloxi with injuries that were not life-threatening.

“We’re not sure at this point who was shooting at who,” Miller told the Sun Herald.

“Naturally, we’ve got investigators and officers going door-to-door, trying to find out if there were any witnesses. It’s still too soon to say what took place yet.”

Pruitt, who is from Laurel, moved into a rental house in December.

“It’s always something happening at that spot,” she said. “It’s about the third time there’s been a shooting. I do child care in my home, so I don’t bring them outside because I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Several weeks ago, she said, she and her roommate were sitting in front of the house on a weekend afternoon when she was not babysitting. A man was walking down Rodenberg. She and her friend heard two shots, then the man started running. Pruitt said she couldn’t even tell from where the gun was fired.

The daytime shooting is what really got her worried.

She takes care of 1-year-old twins and a 3-year-old.

“It’s a lot of kids in this area,” she said. “It’s just sad that they take their anger out against each other with guns. They’re not thinking about the safety of others. Kids are out here playing after school. It’s just crazy.”

According to CrimeMapping.com, in the past month, police have responded to a stretch of Rodenberg Avenue for one case of intimidation, two weapons violations, two instances of vandalism, one theft, and three cases of disorderly conduct.

Before Thursday’s shooting, she said things had seemed to quiet down. The Police Department has stepped up patrols and she appreciates it.

Her friend thinks Pruitt needs to move.

“A bullet,” her friend said, “doesn’t have no name on it.”

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

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