Kenneth Landrieu, a cousin of Mayor Mitch Landrieu who was arrested Monday in an alleged road rage incident last week in the Lower Garden District, said Wednesday that he acted out of fear when, according to police, he whipped out a gun and drew a bead on another driver.
Landrieu, 52, faces counts of aggravated assault with a firearm and impersonating a peace officer, a lesser count that he said he expects to be dismissed.
Landrieu, a first cousin to the mayor and the brother of former congressional hopeful Gary Landrieu, said that until the incident Thursday, he was, “as far as I know,” a commissioned reserve officer in good standing at a local law enforcement agency. The 6th District officers who arrested him “knew or should have known that,” he said.
He refused, however, to disclose the agency for which he volunteers but said he turned in his badge pending the outcome of the criminal case.
Landrieu disputed aspects of a police report that portrays him as an out-of-control aggressor playing cop and threatening the other man with arrest over the barrel of a gun.
“I have a right to defend myself, and what was happening to me, I thought I was defending myself,” he said, declining to address specifics of the allegations.
“I know what happened. I thought I was in danger,” he added. “I’m not running from it. I’m taking it very seriously. If I’m wrong, I’m sorry.”
A New Orleans Police Department arrest warrant affidavit tells a different story.
The other driver claimed Landrieu had a six-pointed brass star pinned to the collar of his polo shirt and a black pistol in his hand when he exited his blue 2004 Cadillac DeVille at Sophie Wright Place and St. Mary Street after a dispute on Magazine Street.
Landrieu first pulled alongside the other car “in an apparent attempt to cut the victim off,” the report says. He got out of the Cadillac and acted in a “very erratic” manner while assuming a “two-handed shooting grip” and approaching the victim’s car, the report says.
The other driver told police that Landrieu asked him if he’d been drinking beer or getting high. He then “ordered the victim to ‘pull over’ and stated that his ‘boys’ were going to search his car. (Landrieu) also told the subject that he would either arrest or have the victim arrested.”
As a crowd formed, Landrieu allegedly shouted an expletive at the victim, returned to his car and drove off, but not before the victim jotted down his license plate.
The Cadillac is registered to Landrieu Public Relations in the 2400 block of St. Charles Avenue, according to the police report. State records show that the business is owned by Landrieu’s mother, Phyllis Landrieu, the mayor’s aunt. The other driver later identified Kenneth Landrieu in a photo lineup, according to the report.
Landrieu admitted Wednesday that he exchanged verbal and gesticular unpleasantries with the other driver after a near-collision as he wheeled the Cadillac left onto Magazine from First Street, headed toward Canal Street.
The jawing continued down Magazine, he said. Landrieu said he carries a small .25-caliber handgun, but that the idea he went double-fisted with it is ludicrous.
“It fits in the palm of your hand,” he said. “It’s impossible to hold that gun in two hands. It would fall out of your hand, it’s so small.”
Landrieu turned himself in Monday. He returned to court Wednesday with cashier’s checks, posting an $8,500 cash bond after he originally went free on an illegal recognizance bond.
Aggravated assault is among about 50 felony charges for which state law prohibits recognizance bonds, but that was the notation made on records for his immediate release Monday.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Franz Zibilich said he called in the $8,500 bail for Landrieu, but he denied authorizing a recognizance bond. He said someone in Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office fouled up his order.
“I did not give Mr. Landrieu a recognizance bond,” Zibilich said. “I set a reasonable bond.”
The case has not yet been allotted to Zibilich or any of the court’s other judges.
Thomas Calogero, Landrieu’s attorney, said he called Zibilich asking for the bail — a frequent practice among lawyers and judges in the criminal courthouse. Zibilich said he set the bail at $7,500 for the aggravated assault and $1,000 for the lesser charge.
“It was definitely a cash or commercial bond. It was never doing him a big favor,” Calogero said. “It was just a mix-up at the jail. The judge was just as confused as I was that they let him out like that.”
Landrieu is next due in Magistrate Court on Oct. 19. Calogero said he couldn’t comment on the allegations.
Sheriff’s offices in St. Bernard and Jefferson parishes said Landrieu isn’t a volunteer reserve officer for them. A spokesman for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office said he didn’t have immediate access to reserve records.
A spokesman for Gusman’s office did not respond to messages about both the bond issue and whether Landrieu worked there as a reserve deputy.
A St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman did not immediately return a message. New Orleans Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said the “alleged badge that was described by the victim was a pointed star style badge similar to a sheriff’s badge. It was not an NOPD star and crescent.”
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.