Cornelius Barthelemy and Caesar Adams casually got out of an SUV, sauntered down Elysian Fields Avenue and slowly rounded the corner onto St. Claude Avenue, where they came face to face with Officer Jonathan Smith at 1:42 a.m. Sunday.
The two jumped back around the corner 10 seconds later, with Barthelemy scrambling to the waiting SUV, apparently holding his side with one hand and a gun with the other. Adams took a few steps, stumbled, pushed himself back to his feet and quickly limped to the vehicle.
The brief interaction between the men and Smith, punctuated by a quick exchange of gunfire, was the result of a botched robbery attempt, a prosecutor told a judge Monday.
Surveillance footage the New Orleans Police Department released does not show the pair coming face to face with Smith, leaving some questions about the sequence of events in the moments they were out of sight of cameras.
But according to an application for an arrest warrant, Barthelemy, 34, pointed a “large chrome revolver” at Smith, who was in his uniform working an off-duty detail at the store, and fired several shots. Smith returned the fire.
“Based on the manner in which they ran to the waiting Ford Expedition, the investigators believed both men had been struck by the officer’s gunshots,” Detective Kevin Burns wrote in the document.
Barthelemy was arrested hours later after he was found at a Gretna apartment complex.
Adams, 36, was found dead in the back of the SUV, which was parked at the same location. He was identified Monday by Gerry Cvitanovich, the Jefferson Parish coroner.
The third suspect, whom Barthelemy identified to police only as “Renegade,” surrendered to Plaquemines Parish authorities on Monday and was later turned over to New Orleans police for questioning.
That suspect, James Wilson, 26, the apparent getaway driver, was later booked with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, said Tyler Gamble, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman.
Assistant District Attorney Philip Costa said during Barthelemy’s initial hearing earlier in the day that the men were trying to rob Gene’s Po-Boys, according to nola.com.
While undergoing treatment for his gunshot wound Sunday at Interim LSU Hospital, Barthelemy allegedly admitted to being one of the men seen in surveillance photos of the incident that police showed him. However, he claimed he did not remember being at the corner that morning and said he “would never shoot” a police officer, according to the application for the arrest warrant.
A gunshot residue test performed on Barthelemy’s hands found traces of barium, antimony and lead, the three main components that make up gunshot residue, according to the document.
Barthelemy was booked on a count of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer and a count of first-degree murder. State law allows for armed robbers to face a first-degree murder charge if a person dies during a robbery.
Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell set bail at $500,000 for the attempted murder charge, according to court records. That, however, was largely a procedural action that was essentially canceled out because there was no bail set for the murder charge.
Police on Sunday said Smith was shot three times, but court documents indicate he was struck twice: once in his right leg, fracturing his femur, and once in his lower back with the bullet lodging in his spine.
He was in “good spirits and very coherent,” interim NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison told reporters Sunday during a news conference, adding that the injuries are not expected to be life-threatening.
Smith remained hospitalized Monday, Gamble said.
WWL-TV reporter Paul Murphy contributed to this report. Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.