Joseph “Moe” Allen, the man New Orleans police named Friday as the first confirmed suspect in Sunday’s mass shooting at Bunny Friend Park, has ties to “more than one organization,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said, hinting at a possible gang motive for the shooting spree that left 17 people wounded as bullets sprayed through a frantic block party crowd.
Court records show that Allen, 32, once had criminal ties to Travis “Trap” Scott, the leader of the 7th Ward “Frenchmen and Derbigny” gang. Scott’s younger brothers opened fire on a Mother’s Day second-line parade in 2013, injuring 20 — but, just as in this week’s melee, killing no one.
Allen and Travis Scott were co-defendants in a 2002 cocaine and heroin possession case in which both men pleaded guilty, records show.
At a news conference Friday afternoon with Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Harrison declined to spell out a motive or say how many shooters police believe opened fire about 6:15 p.m. Sunday at the Upper 9th Ward playground.
He and Landrieu pleaded for witnesses to come forward with video or other evidence, while warning of criminal consequences for anyone hiding the shooters.
“This is not a game and we are absolutely not playing with you,” Harrison said. “We need video. We need photos. We need people to come forward and tell us what happened.”
In the meantime, police continued to search for Allen, whom Harrison described as armed and dangerous.
Police said he faces 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder, one for each of the four minors and 13 adults who suffered bullet wounds in the attack at the park in the 1900 block of Gallier Street.
Police officers were just heading there to break up a crowd that numbered in the hundreds when the gunfire erupted.
The youngest victim, a 10-year-old boy, was shot in the thigh, police said. Ten of the 17 victims were female.
Harrison said most of the victims were in good to fair condition Friday, with one or two still dealing with “pretty critical” but not life-threatening injuries.
Landrieu, who has described the shootout as “domestic terrorism,” called the naming of Allen as a suspect “just the first shoe that dropped.”
“We are going to do everything we can to make sure the other shoes drop as well,” the mayor said. “This is a great first step. We need the people who were in that park to get information to us. We have not yet received videos, and everybody knows there were lots of them out there.”
Police are asking the public to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111. A $5,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest.
As the shooters began firing, witnesses said, hundreds of people broke into a stampede, many of them scrambling over each other and a chain link fence to safety.
Harrison said police suspect there were several shooters and “probably multiple targets.”
“With the number of shooters, they weren’t just shooting at one person. There were people shooting at each other, and a lot of people got hurt,” he said. “We’re so glad that it wasn’t worse than what it was.”
Most of the gunshot wounds were to the victims’ lower bodies or extremities, although one 37-year-old man suffered a graze wound to the back of his head, according to police.
Two of the victims, a 20-year-old man and a 21-year-old woman, took more than one bullet, police said.
Allen’s criminal history includes a no contest plea to a 2010 carjacking, for which he received a five-year prison sentence; a home invasion charge from that same year on which a judge found him not guilty; a heroin possession charge in 2009, to which he pleaded guilty and received an eight-year sentence in 2012; a weapons possession count from 2008 that was dismissed; and various earlier drug charges.
Just how much of the eight-year sentence Allen served, and his release date, was unclear late Friday. Court records show that a judge two years ago amended his sentence to make him eligible for work release and other programs through the state corrections department.
Among them was the 2002 cocaine charge for which his co-defendant was Travis Scott, the older brother of Akein “Keemy” Scott and Shawn “Shizzle” Scott, who together pleaded guilty in September to racketeering charges and other counts from a federal indictment centered on the Mother’s Day 2013 mass shooting.
Akein and Shawn Scott were accused of firing into a parade while targeting an associate of the rival Prieur and Columbus Boys gang. Travis Scott pleaded guilty last month to the racketeering charge, a drug conspiracy count and firearms charges. All three Scotts, along with another brother, Stanley Scott, await sentences of 20 years to life.
Travis Scott was accused of leading a cocaine and heroin ring — supported by gun violence that included numerous attempted murders — out of the Frenchmen Meat Market. He also admitted that, after the Mother’s Day shooting, he “sought to intimidate witnesses who he thought were cooperating with police.”
Fifth District Cmdr. Chris Goodly declined to say Friday whether Allen is related to a Central City family of the same surname, several members of which were recently convicted in federal court in a major drug-dealing conspiracy prosecution.
“Any ties to the Allen family as regards Mr. Joseph ‘Moe’ Allen, we won’t release that at this point,” Goodly said.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.