The Mandeville Street home of Merritt Landry and his family in the Marigny. Marshall Coulter, 14, was in the driveway, reportedly near the Landry's back door, when Landry shot and wounded the teenager around 2 a.m. last Friday.
In less than 48 hours last weekend, two New Orleans men encountered gunfire on Mandeville Street. Although there is no relation between the actors in each shooting, there is no denying the violence afflicting the city connects them.
That second shooting took place around 5 p.m. Saturday in the 1600 block of Mandeville Street. It left an unidentified man perforated with bullets, bleeding out in public in the soft light of a summer's eve. His death provided yet another rimshot in New Orleans' appalling, endless drumbeat of murder and has produced no arrests.
The first occurred in the dead of night in the 700 block of Mandeville Street. It left 14-year-old Marshall Coulter with a bullet in his head and fighting for his life in an intensive care unit. It has resulted in the arrest for attempted second degree murder of one Merritt Landry.
At this point, the public does not know what led to the second shooting. At this point, the public does know the first shooting occurred when, around 2 a.m. and for no discernible good reason, Coulter intruded on property Landry owns with his pregnant wife and young daughter.
The NOPD has noted Coulter was unarmed and posed no "imminent threat" to Landry. But how was Landry expected to know? In the second Mandeville Street shooting, out in space and in daylight, it would be easier to discern if a man was armed, and perhaps even his intent. The facts seem less relevant, however, to an encounter between a homeowner and an interloper on the former's property in the night.
Is it at all surprising Landry felt he and his family were in peril when he found a man lurking in the dark, standing on the private side of a high, wrought-iron fence?
An older brother described Coulter, not yet in high school, as "a professional thief." Landry could not know that, of course, but neither could he have known Coulter was unarmed. Given the steady crime and violence that plagues New Orleans, is it not reasonable for Landry to assume a prowler who has illegally climbed over or slipped through a gate may well be armed?
Then there is the concept of imminent threat. Landry lives in a city in which people are regularly killed - indeed, as we've seen, New Orleans would witness yet another murder within hours mere blocks from where Landry's property was invaded.
What's more, these are tight quarters in the Marigny. The distance between Landry's fence and car and house doors are measured in feet, not yards. Are homeowners expected to take a tape measure to their property, chalking out some line at precise distances that, should a criminal cross it, the threat moves to "imminent?"
Now, an NOPD detective told Naomi Martin and Helen Freund of The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com he had "spoke[n] with an unidentified witness who gave an account that differed from Landry's, though the detective did not specify how."
That would seem to be critical information the public needs and deserves to know. New Orleans is in a perpetual state of alert because of its crime, and the emotional edge added by the Trayvon Martin case in Florida has heightened that atmosphere.
If the NOPD believes something in the known narrative of what happened that night in Landry's driveway is false, or different, it behooves them to make that public. This is not some matter where there are "facts known only to the police" that might help them identify and catch a criminal. The dramatis personae in this tragedy aren't in dispute.
As things stand, the NOPD and the city might be better off if detectives spent less time building an attempted murder case against a homeowner protecting his family and property in the night on the 700 block of Mandeville Street, and more time building a flat-out murder case against the cold-blooded sorts who gunned down a man in the day on the 1600 block.
Thanks, JKC. It will be interesting to keep an eye on what happens. What will the NAACP call its newest saint?