Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Louisiana: Neighbors caught in the crossfire of shootout

New Orleans, Louisiana

From WWLTV of August 19, 2008
Neighbors caught in the crossfire of shootout

Was it self defense, or a danger to the community? It's a question many residents in the Faubourg St. John area are now asking after a recent shooting left bullet casings up and down their neighborhood block.

On Sunday, around 10:30 p.m., New Orleans Police Department officers say two hooded men robbed an employee of the Soprano's Meat Market at gun point at 2703 Ursulines Avenue. Store owner and brother of the employee, Rick Abraham, says surveillance video captured the entire incident.

"They robbed him, beat him with the gun, threw him on the floor, and demanded the money," he said.

But Abraham says his brother was only carrying $50, and so when the robbers demanded more, his brother pulled out his own gun to defend himself. "What happened wasn't just some gunfight; it was a matter of life and death situation."

But on Tuesday night, a handful residents showed up to the First District police station, arguing otherwise. During the New Orleans Neighborhood and Police Anti-Crime Council Meeting (NONPAC), residents argued that the store employee should not have continued to shoot at the robbers, especially if the two men were fleeing the scene.

"What we don't understand is how it's possible that a business owner feels it's the safe and right thing to do to chase a robber down a full city block shooting in a residential neighborhood,” said Kate Parker, President of the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association.

While surveillance video does not show the store employee running after the robbers, neighbors say the gunfire did result in at least one bullet entering a home down the block. NOPD officers also found several other bullet casings in nearby vehicles.

Mike Adams lives across the street from Sopranos and is now stuck fixing the gaping hole in his truck's windshield. "It sounded like fireworks," he said. One of the bullets grazed his vehicle's hood and flew right through the windshield.

Adams says the convenience store should bear some responsibility for the surge in crime in the area. "It’s not all their fault, but at the same time, I think they play a bigger role in the safety of this neighborhood than they think," said Adams.

During the NONPAC meeting, officers told residents the store employee, legally, did nothing wrong. New Orleans police Sgt. Cyril Davillier said the man did not have a concealed weapons permit, but said so long as a person is carrying a gun from their work to their vehicle, or from their home to their vehicle, they do not need one.

"It's dangerous to shoot guns like that," said Davillier. "But if you're a victim of crime getting shot at, what are you going to do?"

Abraham says his brother's decision to carry a gun that evening, proved to be the right one. "If he didn't have nothing to defend himself, they would have killed him."

Many of the residents at Tuesday’s anti-crime meeting say they blame the store's owner for much of the area's illegal activity. They say the meat market stays open later than it should, and accuse the store's owner of attracting customers who contribute to crime.

The NOPD is still conducting an investigation into Sunday's shooting, but say so far they have found no wrong doing on the part of the store employee. Officers are still searching for the two robbers. If you have any information on the shooting you’re asked to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.

If you "attract" robbers, they complain. If you use force to repel them, they also complain. There are some people you just can't please.

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