Marshall Coulter lay hooked to a respirator at Interim LSU Hospital in the early morning hours of July 26, as a trauma team tended to his wound from a .45 caliber gunshot that entered through the side of his head above his ear and exited through the front.
Across town, about 2:45 a.m. at a home at 735 Mandeville St. in Faubourg Marigny, a pair of New Orleans police detectives were busy piecing together what just happened there in the gated rear drive.
They sat questioning a pregnant Anahi Landry as she tended to her young daughter.
One thing was clear: Her husband, city Historic District Landmarks Commission inspector Merritt Landry, had fired a single shot at Coulter about 45 minutes earlier, striking him in the head.
He had heard Frisco, his American bulldog, barking and scratching at the door, she said, and grabbed his seven-shot Kimber Pro Carry II pistol from the nightstand, let Frisco outside and followed.
“He heard some noise and he saw obviously a person, and he yelled: Stop, man, he’s trying to crawl out of the fence, I guess. I wasn’t really there,” she told detectives Melanie Dillon and Wayne DeLarge. “Then I heard a shot, and then I ran outside.”
Later, she recounted that her husband “said, ‘Hey man, stop,” and then a curse word, ‘F**k man,’ and then he shot him.”
In hundreds of pages of documents and photos released Tuesday by Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office — which last week refused to prosecute Merritt Landry for the shooting — police seemed to take her statement to mean that Landry had exclaimed that Coulter was trying to bolt the yard.
That, police concluded, contradicted his own story to police right after the incident that he saw a person crouched behind the red Ford Expedition in the drive who then made “a thwarted move, as if to reach for something.” Landry told officers who arrived at the scene he believed “the male had a weapon, and fired a single gunshot.”
Along with a determination that Landry fired from about 30 feet away, police booked the 33-year-old inspector on the attempted murder count, launching a criminal case that riveted the city.
Later, an expert hired by Cannizzaro’s office to reconstruct the shooting scene, found that Coulter “was facing away from the shooter at the moment the weapon was fired.”
The report, by the Georgia-based Bevel Gardner and Associates, said its conclusion was supported by the splatter of Coulter’s blood on the home’s concrete supports.
A seven-page version of the report positions Coulter facing away and slightly to the right when Landry fired. The boy “remained upright for a moment then rotated to his right and collapsed,” the report said.
It was marked Exhibit 6 among the evidence that Cannizzaro’s office presented to a grand jury, which in February refused to take action in the case.
Eleven weeks later, on May 16, Cannizzaro declined to charge Landry, explaining in a written statement that state law leans heavily in favor of homeowners who “use force or violence against another who is unlawfully attempting to enter his dwelling.”
“I am ethically obligated not to charge an individual against whom I do not possess evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed a crime,” Cannizzaro said. “Such evidence does not exist in this case.”
Cannizzaro also cited Coulter’s recent arrests on a pair of burglary counts, one of them for a 2012 incident in which he allegedly broke into a home and then wrested a gun away from one of the residents. Those cases are both pending in juvenile court.
The district attorney said that with the recent arrests, “any case that this office had against Landry was irreversibly damaged.”
Coulter — who underwent numerous medical procedures after he was shot — was arrested earlier this month for allegedly entering a residence on Royal Street, just blocks from Landry’s home. He also was booked the following day on an arrest warrant for aggravated burglary from an incident in 2012, when he allegedly broke into a home on Frenchmen Street and wrested a gun away from a resident.
The documents released by Cannizzaro’s office on Tuesday, in response to a request under state public records law, shed additional light on the 15-year-old Coulter’s criminal history, as well as Landry’s prior reporting of crimes — including a 2010 incident in which he apprehended a man who he said stole a bike from the Marigny house.
According to the documents, Coulter’s arrest history includes a disturbing the peace count in 2009; a criminal trespass along with a burglary of an inhabited dwelling from two separate incidents in 2012; possession of stolen things and theft from a March 2013 case and marijuana possession in April 2013.
An e-mail exchange among police on the morning after the shooting says the burglary arrest from 2012 was for a break-in at 920 Frenchmen Street, a residence that again was burglarized in July 2013, the same month as Coulter was shot.
When he was shot, Coulter carried $10.32 on him, a cell phone with a broken screen and eight Camel cigarettes in a package.
He wore Adidas tennis shoes, Levi’s shorts and a red, white and black “Dope” tank top with marijuana emblems on it, a police report shows. The tank top was cut and blood stained.
Police also secured a search warrant of Merritt Landry’s house, where along with the pistol he kept a 12-gauge shotgun, an Olympic Arms 223 caliber assault rifle, another rifle wrapped in black electrical tape and myriad boxes of ammunition.
Anahi Landry told police that two scooters had been stolen from the couple the night before, and a month earlier a bicycle was stolen when she left the gate open.
It appears that Merritt Landry didn’t give a formal statement to police following the shooting.
According to documents provided by Cannizzaro’s office, it wasn’t the first time Landry had run into someone trying to steal his stuff. Three years earlier, on Sept. 17 2012, an NOPD report says, Landry went outside to find two of his bicycles missing.
He canvassed the area and saw a man with one of the bikes, a Mongoose, in the 2900 block of St. Claude Ave., heading east.
He detained Antonio Vargas himself until his mother flagged down a cop on the street, the report said.
Later in 2010, Landry went outside to find someone had smashed the rear passenger side window of his mother’s 2001 Lincoln Navigator and swiped his .44 caliber, blue steel Lama Mini Max handgun from the center console.
Three years later, Landry told police he feared for the safety of his wife and young daughter when he walked out the rear door of the house and into the driveway to confront the unknown.
He fired one shot, then quickly called 9-1-1.
“I came outside and found this guy in my yard. I just shot him. He’s — he’s down,” he told the dispatcher.
“Where did you shoot him at?” the dispatcher asked.
“I shot him in his — right by my fence.”
“Okay. Where did —?”
“Oh, my God. I can’t believe this,” Landry said. “He’s shot in the shoulder. He’s not responding. I went by him. I’m trying to like help the dude. He’s down now.”
“He’s still not responding?”
“Um, no,” Landry replied, “he’s not responding.”
Neighbors, hearing the gunshot, quickly came to help, as did emergency technicians. Coulter was slouched down against the house.
“There was, um, distressed breathing. Um, there was a little bit of groaning, but it was a very wet, ah, difficult breathing,” a neighbor, David Benjamin Collins, told police.
When he learned that he’d shot the boy in the head, Landry started “freaking out,” an officer later said. He failed to respond to directions to sit down.
One of the first officers to arrive grew concerned and carefully lifted the handgun from where it sat on a trash can and took it away.
Detective DeLarge took Landry from the Eighth District station to police headquarters just before 4 a.m.
He was “extremely nervous; red face, heavy breathing, and constant movement,” a report from the homicide division states.
“Man, why my yard?” he said. “Why my yard dude?”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter @johnsimerman