BOGALUSA, La. (WGNO) — A Friday night rivalry is going beyond the football field.
This week’s game between Bogalusa and Varnado is canceled because of an increase in gun violence.
Bogalusa Police Chief Kendall Bullen said, “I understand tensions have been high between some of the people in the Varnado and Bogalusa area.”
This year, his department has investigated five murders and 90 shootings in which 22 people were hit. Last week, a 13-year-old was shot getting off the school bus by a teen from Varnado. According to the Chief, the majority of shootings are between teens 13 to 19 years old.
“I had to create a violent offender task force with the help of our Sheriff’s Office, the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, State Police, and federal agencies. We’ve seen a lot of success and slowed down a lot of the shootings,” Chief Bullen said.
A former Bogalusa football player, Brishard Morris said he looks forward to the game every year. Morris said he believes law enforcement could have increased their presence to keep the game on.
“Nothing was going to happen at the game. It basically will be outside the game,” Morris said.
Both school districts did not ask for increased police presence; instead, they cited safety concerns as the reason to cancel.
Bogalusa City Schools Superintendent Lisa Tanner said although these incidents have happened off-campus, the district has been changed by crime.
“I have visited with the parent of the deceased child who was an 11th grader at our high school. It’s just unimaginable that this could happen in such a small town,” Tanner said.
In recent weeks, the district has hired resource officers, detectors are used for anyone stepping on campus and students must now use clear bookbags. The staff is also undergoing additional training.
“When houses are being shot in our community and children and young adults are being shot, school is a safe place. We want it to be a safe place for our children,” Tanner said.
Bogalusa’s Chief said no threats were made ahead of the game that was set to take place on Friday.