March organizer JaCoby Ross, 23, of Orange has taken it upon himself to represent his community and do what he thinks is right.

Feeling of injustice riding high in the community

By Debby Schamber – For the Record

Renowned essayist, lecturer and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.”

The feelings of outrage, inequality and frustration with the justice system has been building for a while and it is not one particular incident which has lead the black community to seek a solution but one of many steps to get where they are now. Quanell X, also known as Quanell Ralph Evans, is the leader of the New Black Panthers in Houston and has been in contact with some of the local people. He is assisting in planning a march in Orange which is expected to occur soon although no date has been set yet.

JaCoby Ross, 23, of Orange has taken it upon himself to represent his community and do what he thinks is right. He knows the facts of the case are not always known and could be the key to finding a resolution.

“They feel voiceless, like they don’t matter,” Ross said. “People just want to be fairly treated.”

Ross encourages others to gather all the information before getting angry or acting out. But, angry words have been exchanged over the conflict with each posts on social media growing more intense.

“Before anything I feel there needs to be an understanding,” Ross said.

Ross feels through his music he has gained respect and encountered a means to get the word out. Ross writes poems and songs and uses the forum to talk about his life experiences.

“Sixty percent of my friends from childhood are in jail, dead or lost on the streets,” Ross said. “It could have easily been me.”

Ross said he experiences some form of racism every day. Whether it is directed at him or someone he knows, it is always prevalent.

“Right now as we speak, someone is being harassed or judged because of their skin color,” he said. “They might just walk into a convenience store or be walking down the street when they are stopped and asked what they are doing. They might be checked for warrants too.”

 Ross says he “does not see color” when it comes to other people.

“I know what I look like. I know I am black.”

Ross also said he also has gold teeth and tattoos but this is on the outside and has nothing to do about who he is as a person.

Most recently, a post on Facebook has caused an uproar in the black community. The posts garnering attention are involving the recent criminal cases of two men convicted of aggravated robbery in the same court room with the same judge having two different outcomes.

Keaton Trace Creel, 24, of Bridge City, has committed two aggravated robberies. After his arrest, bonds totaling $50,000 were set. Creel was later sentenced to three years in prison on one of the charges and will also have to attend a substance abuse felony program. 

Keaton Trace Creel, 24, of Bridge City, has committed two aggravated robberies. After his arrest, bonds totaling $50,000 were set. Creel was later sentenced to three years in prison on one of the charges and will also have to attend a substance abuse felony program.

Keaton Trace Creel, 24, of Bridge City, has committed two aggravated robberies.  In December 2014 Creel went into the store wearing a red ski mask and pulled out a handgun and demanded money. Creel fled on foot to his nearby pickup truck with an estimated $1,000 in stolen cash. He later returned to the store while investigators were still there to purchase gas. The clerk identified him and he was arrested.

Again in February 2015 Creel went to the Fuel Depot located in the 1500 block of Texas Avenue wearing a pillow case over his head with two eye holes cut out. When police arrived the clerk informed them the suspect was the same person as who had robbed the store in recent months. In addition, the clerk informed the investigators Creel told him he was using a “real gun” during the second attempt. But, the clerk refused to give him money and Creel left the store. During an interview with police Creel admitted he committed the robbery because he was bi-polar and schizophrenic. Creel thought a demon inside his head made him commit the crime, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Bonds totaling $50,000 were set. Creel was later sentenced to three years in prison on one of the charges and will also have to attend a substance abuse felony program.

The other case causing a stir when the cases are compared is that of LaKendrick Jorone Sonnier, 20, of Orange. Sonnier was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison for an aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon from an incident in April 2015. Sonnier entered a restaurant located in the 2300 block of MacArthur wearing gloves, dark clothing and a mask. Sonnier told the woman behind the register to give him the money, but when she could not he threatened to shoot her with the gun he was brandishing. She managed to open the register by ringing up an item and during the process he threatened to shoot her again. Once Sonnier had the money he went towards the office where the safe is kept. But, she was able to get between Sonnier and the door of the office and close it. He told her she had made a big mistake and would shoot her. He left the business and ran out into the parking lot. The woman was able to identify Sonnier to the police since he was familiar with him since he was a former employee.

LaKendrick Jorone Sonnier, 20, of Orange. Sonnier was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison for an aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon from an incident in April 2015.

LaKendrick Jorone Sonnier, 20, of Orange. Sonnier was recently sentenced to 35 years in prison for an aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon from an incident in April 2015.

Sonnier was arrested a short time later during a traffic stop with the money and clothing worn by the suspect still in his possession. In addition, there was a bullet still in the chamber of the gun, according to a probable cause affidavit. Bond was set at $25,000.

Ross feels since both crimes are aggravated robbery the sentencing should have been the same. The sentiment is shared by others as well.

Both men accepted a plea bargain agreement and were sentenced by Judge Dennis Powell, according to information received.

However, Ross added he feels Sonnier should still be accountable for the crime he committed but questions the amount on the time he received for punishment. The controversy over the two cases added fuel to the fire.

“Just because LaKendrick is black doesn’t mean he should have gotten more time,” Ross said. “If it is nothing, then it’s nothing – but it needs to be looked into.”

Sonnier is the fourth child of eight for Paulina Wallace. Her son graduated from West Orange-Stark High School in 2013 and joined the Army Reserves. He also worked at a local refinery. However, she does not know why her son did this crime.

“My heart is broken,” she said.

According to Wallace, Sonnier did not have any prior convictions. She thinks 35 years is too much and just wants answers.

“I am not saying don’t hold him accountable. I just want what is fair to my child,” Wallace said. “A lot of people are reaching out to me, both black and white.”

Wallace said she plans to appeal the sentence and will continue to fight for her child until she has no more fight left in her body.

The main thing is “just peace,” Ross said.

Adding to the unrest is the murder of 35-year-old Emanuel Thornton, of Orange, in January 2014. The homicide happened in the 1500 block of Carter Street. Thornton was gunned down and was laying in the front yard with multiple gun shot wounds when police arrived. No arrests have been made in the case.

However, according to Detective Captain Robert Enmon, of the Orange Police Department, they have everything they need except a lab result from the crime lab.

“Once we receive the result, we will take it to the district attorney’s office for review and then a possible Grand Jury,” Enmon said.

Following an indictment of the suspect, then an arrest will be made and the case will proceed from there.

However, Ross knows everything will not be resolved right away with one action or a few more. A “peaceful” march may allow the community to be able to come together.

“We just need an understanding,” he added.