A suspect accused of participating in the Nov. 22 mass shooting in Bunny Friend Park is out of jail after producing a witness to back up his alibi, making him the second accused gunman to go free — at least for now — after claiming that he could not possibly have been at the park when shooting erupted.
Michael Allen, 29, got out last week after Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell reduced his bail from $1.7 million to $170,000 over the objections of the District Attorney’s Office. But the case against him remains open.
Allen claims he was picking up his son elsewhere at the time of the Upper 9th Ward shooting that left 17 people wounded.
Allen is the second suspect to be released from custody in the case. Lawyers for another man proved he was in Texas at the time of the shooting.
Allen’s defense attorney, John Fuller, said his client’s release underscores his claim that police ignored due process in their rush to arrest suspects in the high-profile shooting, which Mayor Mitch Landrieu called an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Eight of the nine suspects still named in the case remain in jail. Court records show that a single witness made the initial identification of at least three of them — Malik Johnson, Eddie Copelin and Wilfred Celestine.
Fuller said he introduced text messages during the bail reduction hearing to show that Allen was communicating with his family about picking up the child. But perhaps the most influential testimony, he said, was the word of Allen’s girlfriend’s father, Turrell Jones.
Jones said Allen was at his Algiers home about 6 p.m., just as the shooting started.
Fuller said surveillance video that he has yet to introduce into the court record also shows his client driving his white Acura into the parking lot of a Chevron gas station and a daiquiri shop on Gen. de Gaulle Drive around that time.
“It would be impossible for my client to be (in Bunny Friend Park) if he was in Algiers at 6 o’clock,” Fuller said.
The other man arrested and then released in connection with the Bunny Friend Park shooting was Joseph “Moe” Allen, no relation to Michael Allen. He was released earlier this month after prosecutors refused all charges against him.
His defense team had collected video proving that he was buying baby clothes with his pregnant wife in a Houston suburb at the time of the shooting.
The District Attorney’s Office has not refused the charges against Michael Allen, and Fuller said he still thinks it is a “very real possibility” that his client will be indicted.
Fuller called New Orleans Police Department Detective Chad Cockerham, whose name has appeared on the arrest warrant for every suspect named thus far, to testify at the bail reduction hearing.
Fuller said he was able to establish while questioning the detective that none of the shooting victims identified his client as a shooter and that no video has placed Allen at the scene.
Allen is scheduled to take a polygraph test Tuesday, Fuller said. The results of that test would not be admissible in court, he said, but they could buttress his client’s public claim to innocence.
Fuller said his client now has the major advantage of being able to argue his innocence from outside of jail — unlike the other eight suspects still behind bars.
“It’s easier to represent folks who are out, and more convenient, because they can actively participate in the investigation of their case,” Fuller said. “They can actually physically show me where this happened and that happened.”