A pastor in the Big Easy who lost his son to gun violence had foreboding messages about the state of the city and offered explanations for the ongoing crime surge.
"There's a spirit of murder at work in this city and in our nation," St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church senior pastor Rev. Orin D. Grant Sr. told Fox News.
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"It’s a dark time," he continued. "It’s a dangerous time. It’s a deceptive time."
New Orleans has grappled with a violent crime surge over the last few years. Carjackings and homicides skyrocketed, both more than doubling since 2019 and briefly earning the city the title of the nation's murder capital.
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"There's been various people to die here in New Orleans and across this nation, and a lot of mass shootings," Grant said.
Mass shootings have spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines such incidents as a shooting that injuries or kills at least four people. The group recorded 647 last year compared to 336 in 2019.
"I got a security director because these are the times we live in," Grant said. "People even come into churches and do stuff."
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Grant, born in Gretna, Louisiana, has spent the last 23 years serving as the senior pastor of his church. His youngest son, Orin D. Grant Jr., was shot and killed just blocks away in August 2022. He was 20 years old.
"It's a tough pill to swallow," Grant said. "I sleep with him on my mind. I wake up with him on my mind."
But "there are other people like me who have lost a loved one" to gun violence, Grant said.
Grant told Fox News many factors contribute to the city’s violent crime surge.
There's more young people using drugs, struggling with mental illness and getting access to firearms, the pastor said.
"Our young people are victims of society," Grant said. "They see violence from early."
Young people have a "mind-your-business clause," the pastor told Fox News. He said they avoid speaking to police about what they know about a crime.
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"People in the community fear ... ‘maybe they will retaliate on me if I share what I saw,’" Grant said. "You got to have a community that’s standing up for what’s right."
Grant, a chaplain with the local police department, said community members need to cooperate with cops and city officials to stop the violence.
"If you have one person pulling in one direction but everybody else is standing still, it’s not gonna work," Grant said. "So we have to work together."
Grant told Fox News he's building a team of community members to tackle the city's crime surge. The pastor organized a rally 30 days after he lost his son calling on church leaders, public officials, law enforcement and community members to work together to prevent gun violence. He also led seminars on peer mediation and conflict resolution.
"We have to take ownership of our neighborhoods again and run drug dealers out," Grant said. "Run criminals out."
"And we have to respect life," Grant told Fox News. "We have to respect one another."
To hear more from Grant on the gun violence surge that took his son, click here.