Breaking News
More () »

JP crews destroy encampment, hurt woman sleeping inside

“We were in the claws. The pallets saved us, I guess,” said Watson. “She got the worst side because she was on the side he came in at.”

MARRERO, La. — Fresh tracks in the dirt under the Westbank Expressway in Marrero are all that’s left of where Jacob Watson has lived for the past week.   

“The house was built right here,” said Watson as he points to a spot in the dirt and gravel. “It was three pallets with a tarp over it.” 

Those wooden pallets and tarp were how he and 25-year-old Ayla Toups sheltered from the cold. Friday morning, while asleep, heavy machinery destroyed it with them inside. 

“We were in the claws. The pallets saved us, I guess,” said Watson. “She got the worst side because she was on the side he came in at.” 

Surveillance video shows what appears to be Toups falling to the ground. According to the time stamp on that video, it took about a minute and a half before anyone noticed. Watson says that’s when someone finally hears them screaming.  

“Oh my God my child is dead,” said Toups mom Tia Marie-Chapman when she first saw the video. “That’s what went through my mind, that they had killed her.” 

Horrified by the video, Marie-Chapman says her daughter endured a six-hour surgery on her face.  

“She had a laceration from the fork of the Bobcat that split her from her lip up to her cheek,” said Marie-Chapman.  

Although sore, Watson was able to crawl away without major injuries. He says Jefferson Parish routinely destroys makeshift shelters, but not while people are still in them. He says what happened Friday, came without warning.  

“I thought I was going to be crushed man. Every time I think about it, it’s like damn, I could have been crushed,” said Watson. “She could have been killed.” 

According to Jefferson Parish, the parish’s Parkways Department was responding to a complaint about a homeless encampment. The parish says what happened is an accident and an internal investigation is underway. A parish spokesperson released the following statement to Eyewitness News.  

“We were informed that the Jefferson Parish Parkways Department responded to a complaint about a homeless encampment underneath the elevated Westbank Expressway on Friday morning and a homeless woman was accidentally struck during the removal of the camp. JPSO arrived on the scene to take a report and our Parkways employees were pretty shaken up by the incident. First responders were called and she was taken to the hospital. An internal investigation is taking place to determine exactly what happened.” 

“They know there are transients under there and homeless people and you don’t even get out and bother to check and see if there is anybody in there, you’re just going to roll right through it and possibly kill someone,” said Marie-Chapman. 

Marie-Chapman says her daughter fell into addiction and routinely lives on the streets by choice. She and Watson say what happened Friday is part of a much bigger problem in Jefferson Parish, a lack of services for people who need them. 

“No one cares about these homeless people,” said Marie-Chapman. “No one.” 

“They keep saying, camping, camping, it’s illegal to camp in a public area but I don’t know the true definition of camping, but we’re not camping, we’re living,” said Watson. 

It’s that type of living that almost ended their lives.   

Marie-Chapman says thankfully her daughter has no major nerve damage to her face and the worst of it will be cosmetic. Toups is expected to be released from the hospital Saturday.

RELATED: Marrero shooting left man dead Saturday, JPSO

RELATED: JPSO: Man shot, killed outside Harvey business

Paid Advertisement

Before You Leave, Check This Out