Classic rock blared, tourists swilled drinks and Martin Regan, attorney for suspected Bourbon Street shooter Trung Le, cased the French Quarter on a muggy Thursday afternoon in search of the second gunman in the high-profile June 29 shoot-out that injured nine people and killed 21-year-old Brittany Thomas.
That evening, in a phone interview, Regan said he thought he had found his man: a French Quarter kitchen worker with a record of gun violence and drug possession, who was arrested in April for aggravated assault after he fired at a neighbor during a dispute.
“I’m doing my best to put the pieces together,” Regan said, admitting it was unusual for him to be doing such in-depth detective work during a case.
The New Orleans Advocate is withholding the man’s name because he has yet to be identified as a suspect by law enforcement.
Regan said he received a tip from a woman who called his office after reading news reports about Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing in the case. The woman said she believed she had been shot at by a man with a similar description.
Two witnesses, both friends of Le, testified at the hearing that police had showed them a video of a pistol-wielding figure in a chef’s outfit staggering down the city’s most famous entertainment strip before he pointed a gun at their group of 20-somethings.
In a phone interview Friday afternoon, the woman, who declined to be identified out of fear for her safety, said a neighborly dispute in the Lower 9th Ward turned violent after the man banged on her door and then broke into her home.
She fled her residence, at which point the man fired once at her, she said.
Police records echo her story and show the 37-year-old man was arrested the next day on a count of aggravated assault with a firearm. He bonded out of jail two days later.
“I was terrified,” the woman said about the incident. “It reminded me of ‘The Shining.’ ”
The woman, who is identified by name in court documents, said the neighbor was a kitchen worker whom she would often see in his uniform. “I had a clear idea this guy was volatile, unstable and drank a lot,” she said.
The man has a significant rap sheet with arrests for aggravated battery, disturbing the peace, public intoxication and at least three marijuana charges. He is also wanted on a municipal charge for failing to show for a court date for not neutering his dog.
His Facebook profile shows he works at a restaurant about three blocks from the site of the shooting. It also features a picture of him posing on Bourbon Street.
Regan said he turned the information he had over to the State Police because he doesn’t trust the NOPD to conduct the investigation.
Capt. Doug Cain, a spokesman for the State Police, confirmed they had received new information Friday from Regan. He said a detective was looking into its credibility.
“They did get some information and are investigating that lead actively,” Cain said.
Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the Police Department, said the department had received word of the lead as well.
“If Mr. Regan believes he has information that would help the NOPD bring the second shooter involved in this tragic incident to justice, I would urge him to provide it immediately,” Gamble said.
When reached Thursday, two of Le’s friends who were present during the shooting said they had seen pictures of the alleged second gunman but couldn’t say whether he was in fact the second shooter.
“I couldn’t really say,” said Robert Benvenuti, who was shot four times in the incident.
Jasmine Parent, who wasn’t wounded, said she also could not confirm whether the man was the second gunman.
The District Attorney’s Office on Friday turned over about 40 hours of video footage to Regan, including one annotated video that makes it easier to see both shooters and has captions.
From the annotated video, it appears that even though Le fires the first shot, it is the second shooter who pumps the majority of the bullets into the crowd. On the video, the man continues to fire while Le dashes down Bourbon Street before turning left on St. Peter Street.
The video also highlights the second shooter as he walks down the street before the shooting with something in his left hand. It is unclear whether it’s a bottle or a gun. The video then shows the man getting into a pushing match with a man close to Le seconds before gunfire erupts.
According to Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, “all the video, including the video in question,” was turned over Friday afternoon.
Regan said prosecutors had still failed to turn over at least one video with numerous annotations encircling the gunman and his weapon. Parent and Benvenuti testified to having seen this video at NOPD headquarters days after the shooting.
“This video does not match the video described by witnesses and the detective,” Regan said about the annotated video he received.
Benvenuti and Parent on Friday both reiterated that on the disputed video it was clear the second shooter was wearing chef’s garb, including dark-striped pants, and that he was walking with his gun exposed.
“It was a lot more clear and from better angles,” Parent said, when comparing it to other videos that have been released to the public. “I learned more about what happened that night from them showing me the videos than from what I remembered.”
Le has pleaded not guilty to one charge of attempted second-degree murder and one charge of manslaughter in the shooting. His next court date is Sept. 11.
Advocate reporter John Simerman contributed to this report. Follow Dan Lawton on Twitter, @dlawton.