Four years after two bystanders were paralyzed in a shooting at the annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Baton Rouge and three years after the parents of one of the victims filed suit, attorneys for the city-parish and state are asking a judge to throw out the lawsuit.
The lawyers contend in recent court filings that the city-parish and state did not owe a duty to Kayla Smith to protect her from the “random’’ and “unforeseeable’’ criminal acts of an unknown third party.
The attorneys also claim there was ample security and lighting at the July 4, 2007, event on the downtown riverfront.
Michael Palmintier, an attorney for Smith and her parents, disputed both of those contentions Thursday and said a jury should hear the case.
State District Judge Janice Clark is scheduled to hold a hearing July 11 on the defense motions to dismiss the suit.
The suit — filed by Jennifer Scallan and Brent Smith on July 3, 2008 — alleges the city of Baton Rouge, Parish of East Baton Rouge, state and others were negligent in failing to provide adequate security for the 2007 festivities.
Kayla Smith later joined the suit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages.
Smith and Robert M. Blunschi Jr., who were 16 and 21, respectively, at the time, got caught in the crossfire while they walked atop the Mississippi River levee near the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum.
Smith suffered serious spinal cord injuries in the shooting. Blunschi was shot in the head and suffered significant brain damage.
Devin Collins and Marvin Brown, both of Baton Rouge, initially were charged with attempted second-degree murder and criminal conspiracy in the shooting.
State District Judge Chip Moore acquitted Collins of the conspiracy charge and found him guilty of two counts of aggravated battery in April 2009. Moore sentenced Collins to 12 years in prison.
The Louisiana Supreme Court let his conviction and sentence stand.
Collins, now 22, did not wound either victim when he fired a .25-caliber pistol into the crowd that night, but he was “actively involved’’ in the shootout, the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled in affirming Collins’ conviction and sentence.
Prosecutors alleged from the outset of the case that Collins was shooting at an unknown individual.
“The City-Parish did not owe a duty to protect Ms. Smith from the risk that a random shooting might occur in that area and cause injury to her,’’ Assistant Parish Attorney C. John Naquin Jr. argues in documents filed last month seeking dismissal of the suit.
“No such criminal activity had taken place on the USS Kidd museum premises or in the surrounding area and, more specifically, there had been no shooting or gun-related violence at prior Fourth of July celebrations or similar events,’’ he contends.
Andrew Blanchfield, an attorney for the state, the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission and the Louisiana Veterans Memorial Foundation, echoes those remarks in separate documents filed in late April and also claims the area where the event was held was “well-lit and open.’’
Blanchfield says Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission director Maury Drummond hired four off-duty uniformed police deputies to patrol the event. Other on-duty police officers were in the area, he says.
Palmintier maintains there was “no security of consequence.’’
“There was literally no deterrent,’’ he said.
Brown, now 21, pleaded no contest in August 2009 to an amended charge of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Moore sentenced him to two years in prison, giving him credit for the 21 months he had served since his arrest. Brown was released shortly thereafter from Parish Prison.
Prosecutors acknowledged Brown was not the shooter, but said his DNA was found on a 9 mm pistol discovered near the Kidd memorial and museum.
Prosecutors said Smith’s and Blunschi’s injuries were consistent with a 9 mm bullet. Eleven 9 mm shell casings found at the scene were traced back to the gun, prosecutors noted.
Scallan has said she hopes her daughter can undergo stem-cell transplant treatment in an attempt to help her walk again.
Blunschi’s mother, Glenda Blunschi, has said her son continues his therapy at home.