New Orleans officer, 2 suspects wounded in drugstore shootout
The wounded LEO was hit in the upper left shoulder in a shootout with suspects who were robbing a drugstore
Ramon Antonio Vargas
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.
NEW ORLEANS — A usually tranquil stretch of Prytania Street in Uptown awoke to gunfire Monday morning after New Orleans police got into a shootout with two men robbing a drugstore, leaving one officer and both suspects wounded, authorities said.
While one of the suspects was quickly arrested, the second ran into a nearby residential neighborhood, sparking an hours-long manhunt through Uptown backyards and alleyways until heavily armed officers captured him.
Police brought their injured colleague to University Medical Center for treatment, and paramedics took the arrested suspects to the hospital. None of the wounded were immediately identified, but all were believed to be in stable condition, authorities said.
“I am just grateful (the officers) are OK,” New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said. “I am grateful no one sustained, that we know of, any serious injuries.”
According to police, a 26-year-old man and an 18-year-old man barged into the 24-hour CVS in the 4900 block of Prytania just after 6:05 a.m. and demanded property from the store at gunpoint. Three officers were at the store within a few minutes to investigate a call. They encountered a pair of armed men inside the store and exchanged fire with them, Ferguson said.
Police didn’t immediately say how many bystanders were inside the store during the shootout, but at least two people wearing CVS shirts could be seen talking to investigators in the parking lot later in the morning.
The wounded officer was hit in the upper left shoulder, police said. Ferguson said he didn’t know where the suspect who was detained at the store had been hit.
Meanwhile, the second suspect, despite being hit, managed to run out of the store toward the Mississippi River on Upperline Street, police said. On a radio channel, police described the man as “limping” and wielding “a black submachine gun.”
Officers cordoned off a large area generally bounded by Prytania, Boudeaux, Coliseum and Robert streets. Pedestrians and motorists were turned away at the edges of the perimeter while police dogs and the NOPD SWAT team combed the area’s yards and alleyways.
By 9 a.m., officers found the second suspect hiding near a home close to the corner of Upperline and Chestnut streets, within the zone that had been cordoned off, according to several neighborhood residents.
Andrea Lockwood, who lives in the area, recorded a cellphone video of that man being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher. At least three NOPD officers and three Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents gathered at the ambulance as paramedics brought the suspect in.
Some residents said they thought they were hearing an early test run of 4th of July fireworks before they realized the situation was much more serious.
One resident, who asked to not be named, recounted how the second suspect hid in between his and his neighbor’s homes. The resident said he looked out his front window because he heard a tarp rustling, and he spotted an officer pointing a gun up an alleyway while shouting into his radio, “I need K-9 backup!”
“I went to the safest room that I could find and laid down. I stayed there for like an hour,” said the resident, who described later seeing blood in the alleyway.
Closer to the CVS, Robert Conner, who identified himself as the pharmacy manager’s father, said he was having coffee at a McDonald’s restaurant when he saw on the television that there had been gunfire at the store.
Conner drove to the CVS and waited across the street, worrying about what had happened as the minutes ticked by. Finally, he received a call from his daughter, who said she was safe.
“It released the burden of my heart,” a visibly relieved Conner told reporters. “God … spared her life.”
Monday was only one of several times that police in New Orleans have been drawn into gun battles this year.
In separate incidents between January and May, three men were fatally shot after video footage showed that they each first fired on police.
Additionally, in July 2017, roughly a half-mile from Monday’s clash, a police officer working a paid detail for an Uptown neighborhood organization was shot in the leg by someone in a passing vehicle.
As is police protocol in deadly police shootings involving NOPD, Monday’s melee is being investigated by the Police Department’s Force Investigation Team, a special unit set up under the agency’s seven-year-old reform agreement with the federal government.
Independent federal and municipal monitors are also reviewing the case, police said.
©2019 The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.