Leonard Singleton can thank the surveillance cameras at a West Bank shopping mall for his freedom.
Singleton, 22, was booked early Saturday morning on a second-degree murder count in connection with the fatal shooting Friday night of Milan Arriola, the daughter of a veteran New Orleans Police Department officer and a New Orleans Fire Department captain, and the niece of New Orleans jazzman Kermit Ruffins.
Also arrested in the slaying was Will Reed, the suspected triggerman in the assault.
A witness who is believed to be the driver of the Camaro that Arriola was riding in when she was killed told police that Reed and Singleton were involved in the shooting, as well as “a third subject known as ‘Damon,’ ” according to applications for arrest warrants.
But when police questioned him, Singleton insisted he had spent Friday night at the Oakwood Center mall on the West Bank, much of it inside the Nouveau clothing and accessories store.
NOPD homicide Detective Wayne DeLarge went to the mall Saturday and found surveillance footage showing Singleton entering Nouveau at 7 p.m. and leaving at 7:51 p.m.
Google Maps puts the drive at 8.3 miles and 16 minutes from the site of Arriola’s killing at Allen and Humanity streets in Gentilly, which was reported at 8 p.m.
Police asked a magistrate judge to rescind the arrest warrant for Singleton, who was in the process of being set free on Monday, said his mother, Shelita Newton.
“They were in the mall for quite a while. How they gonna cross the river to them?” she said. “What they’re telling me is the guy who (Arriola) was in the car with gave a positive ID of Will Reed. He says him and Will Reed had eye-to-eye contact. He knows (Reed) real good. I guess he doesn’t know the other guy and thought that was (Singleton).”
Newton said the driver of the Camaro had an altercation two years ago with Reed’s twin brother, Wade Reed. At that time, Will Reed was behind bars.
She said she wasn’t sure whether the scuffle — “It was just a fistfight. No weapons was involved or anything” — was related to the shooting Friday night.
Court records show Wade Reed has been behind bars for about a year on murder, attempted murder and armed robbery counts. He and three co-defendants were indicted in August, accused of killing Charles Myers, 32, during an attempted robbery of purported drug dealers in New Orleans East in March 2014.
NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble declined to say whether police remain confident in the witness’s identification of Will Reed in Arriola’s killing despite the apparently false identification of Singleton, nor would Gamble say what other evidence police may have against Reed.
According to the warrants, both arrests were based on the same witness’s identifications of the two men.
“Detectives are still actively investigating and building the case. It would be inappropriate to discuss any evidence related to the investigation at this time,” Gamble said via email. “We do not believe Arriola was the intended target. Based on the initial investigation, we believe the shooting was a result of an argument with someone else.”
Will Reed, 20, was arrested late Saturday during a traffic stop and booked on a count of second-degree murder. He remained jailed Monday in lieu of $350,000 bail.
Court records show he was accused of eight counts of attempted murder and eight counts of aggravated battery in a bill of information filed last year by District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office, apparently stemming from a 2012 case. He pleaded guilty in February to eight counts of aggravated battery, receiving a two-year sentence. By then he had already served that much time, said Eusi Phillips, his attorney in that case. Phillips said the charges stemmed from a shooting at a dice game in which no one received major injuries.
“The state just charged him with everyone who was there. One guy might have gotten grazed. One guy was shot in the butt,” Phillips said. “Basically, the sentence he got was credit for time served.”
Phillips, who said he knows the Ruffins family, called it “a sad situation.”
Earlier this month, Judge Byron Williams issued an arrest warrant for Will Reed after he failed to pay fines and fees to the court, online records show.
He is due back in court on the murder count on Aug. 3.
Arriola died at Interim LSU Hospital from her wounds.
Her father is New Orleans Fire Department Capt. Roy Arriola Jr. Her mother, 26-year NOPD veteran Officer Imani Ruffins, posted “A letter to my daughter’s killer” on Facebook on Monday, addressing it to Will Reed.
It reads: “I’m sharing this today, because TODAY was a good day. I want you to know that in spite of you changing my life forever, I don’t hate you. I feel sorry for you. Sorry that you’ve never experienced the love that Milan experienced, not only from her family and friends, but co-workers, classmates and random strangers.
“An unconditional, heart pounding, take your breath away type of love. I’m certain you haven’t experienced this because you had no regard or appreciation for life. Milan was loved by so many people; she had the brightness smile. Contagious. Like a sneeze.”
She closed with, “I thank God for 20 years with my first child, my only daughter, my best friend. No one, not even you Will Reed can take that away from me and everyone who had the pleasure of sharing her life.
“So TODAY I’ll pray for you, that God has mercy on your soul.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.