First Black Mayor Elected to Largely White Town Shot to Death

The city council scheduled an emergency meeting Tuesday after the mayor-elect, the first black man elected to lead the largely white town, was found shot to death.

The body of Gerald Washington, 57, was found Saturday night in the parking lot of a former school. He had been shot once in the chest, investigators said. Officials said a pistol was found nearby.

The killing is being investigated as a homicide, but Calcasieu Parish sheriff's spokeswoman Kim Myers said Tuesday morning that no arrests had been made and the department had no suspects.

Washington, who served three terms as a city councilman, was supposed to have taken office Tuesday as Westlake's first new mayor in 24 years.

The city council has 10 days to appoint an interim mayor. If it fails to meet that deadline, the governor could appoint someone to lead the town, according to Mayor Dudley Dixon, who is retiring.

Although the southwest Louisiana town of 4,500 is 80 percent white, Washington had no trouble winning election in September.

The retired refinery worker had 696 votes — nearly 69 percent of the vote — to 318 for social worker Paula Johnson.

"Mr. Washington is going to be missed by all the people of Westlake," Dixon said. "It's one of the most tragic things I've heard in a long time. He would be a good mayor."

Longtime Councilman Dan Cupit said he had been looking forward to working with Washington as mayor. "Westlake lost a good friend," he said.