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"Do one thing right in your life" Kermit Ruffins makes appeal to shooter of girlfriend, baby

The famed New Orleans trumpeter made an impassioned plea to his girlfriend's shooter in an exclusive interview with WWL-TV from the girlfriend’s hospital bed.

NEW ORLEANS — Famed trumpeter Kermit Ruffins made an emotional appeal Saturday, asking the person who shot his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach Thursday evening to surrender to police.

“Please turn yourself in and do one thing right in your life,” said Ruffins, 57, as he spoke with WWL-TV from the hospital bedside of his girlfriend, Harmonese Pleasant, 29.

In a wide-ranging phone interview, Pleasant and Ruffins both said they didn’t know who would have shot her but can’t imagine she could have been the intended target.

“Who would want to hurt a beautiful pregnant woman standing outside on a beautiful day, talking on the phone in front of her front door?” Ruffins said.

Pleasant’s daughter, who doesn’t yet have a name, was born by emergency C-section Thursday night and airlifted from University Medical Center to Children’s Hospital. As Pleasant recovers from surgery, she has only seen her infant via FaceTime when Ruffins visited the hospital or using an app on her smartphone to get hourly updates.

Ruffins said “Baby Ruffins” still has three bullet fragments in her tiny body, but she is breathing on her own and doctors told the couple she is getting stronger by the minute.

“The life-threatening conditions they’re no longer worried about,” Pleasant said.

She added she is hopeful she can go home some time this coming week.

Pleasant said she has no idea who shot her and never heard a gun fire. Ruffins speculates that Pleasant was hit by a stray bullet or a ricochet from someone shooting at someone or something else. This is something Ruffins already knows too well. He lost his niece, Milan Arriola, to gun violence in 2015. He has become a highly recognized culture bearer for the city he loves, but is fed up with the culture of violence pervading New Orleans.

He said he blames drugs, easy access to guns, violent videogames and rap music lyrics for inspiring seemingly random violence, mostly by juveniles.

“I think of their parents, the way they raised them,” he said. “Who can live like that? Turn yourself in for the better of our city and life in general.”

Then, the iconic musician choked out the words: “We could have had two funerals.”

Pleasant gave WWL-TV the first detailed description of what happened shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday when she was shot.

She and Ruffins were planning a home birth, and they said they were very excited after Pleasant got a clean bill of health that morning for her and her baby after 39 weeks of pregnancy. It was a beautiful day and she said she was outside enjoying the nice weather. She said Ruffins was not there at the time, but they were planning to eat dinner soon, takeout from Mandina’s Restaurant.

Pleasant said she was walking in front of their house on Treme Street and talking on the phone with a friend from Mississippi who hadn’t been able to make it to her baby shower. She said she had just hung up and was close to the intersection of Treme Street and Esplanade Avenue when she felt a searing pain and blood dripping into her boots.

She screamed and stumbled about 20 steps and fell directly in front of the house she shares with Ruffins, Pleasant said. Ruffins’ daughter, Noonie, who lives down the street, came running with her boyfriend, Pleasant said. They tried to put her in a car, but it hurt too much, she said. She called Ruffins and told him she thought she’d been shot.

“I’d never heard her scream like that,” Ruffins said. “It’s like, ‘This is not happening.’ What kind of people do we have living? Where are the damn parents? What kind of parents raised these people, man?”

Ruffins rushed home and got there before the ambulance took Pleasant away. He promised to follow her to the hospital, but he said police made him stay to answer questions. Three hours later, WWL-TV cameras at the scene captured a distraught Ruffins speaking with officers outside the house. He was never detained, but he and Pleasant said police treated him like a suspect at first.

“The way they treated me I just can’t believe. They should look at me and know damn well I wouldn’t hurt a fly,” he said.

But he immediately switched to a more appreciative view of how the police handled it: “But I understand Kermit Ruffins is no different from no one else.”

Ruffins’ sister, Imani, is a New Orleans police officer. It was her daughter, Arriola, who was shot to death in 2015. Ruffins said he’s confident in NOPD’s abilities to find whoever shot his girlfriend and daughter.

“I’m positive they’re going to catch them. They’re good at what they do,” he said. Then he appealed to Mayor LaToya Cantrell to figure out a way to have more proactive policing.

“We need a certain task force to go after these kids, instead of waiting for it to happen,” he said. “We need more offense. It should be super proactive.”

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