Joseph “Moe” Allen’s mother blew him a kiss, walked out of court and beamed a smile of pure joy Tuesday, moments after an Orleans Parish assistant district attorney announced that the office was refusing all 17 counts of attempted murder filed against her son by New Orleans police.
“Thank you, thank you, Jesus!” Deborah Allen said. “I told you.”
Allen, 32, was the first suspect New Orleans police arrested in connection with the Nov. 22 mass shooting in Bunny Friend Park. He also becomes the first suspect to be cleared.
His mother maintained from the start that video would prove her son was in Texas on the night of the shooting in the Upper 9th Ward.
The decision by District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office was a sock in the eye for the New Orleans Police Department in a high-profile case that has attracted national headlines.
Seventeen people, including a 10-year-old, were wounded in the shooting in the park, though none fatally.
Five suspects besides Allen have been arrested; two remain at large.
Police said Tuesday night that another suspect, 29-year-old Michael “Mack” Allen, has surrendered himself. Deborah Allen said the two men are not related.
Michael Allen, too, maintains his innocence. His attorney, John Fuller, said his client was elsewhere in the city with his family at the time of the shooting and that he is willing to take a polygraph test to buttress his claim.
Police had obtained an arrest warrant for Joseph Allen on the weight of a single witness’ word. District Attorney’s Office spokesman Chris Bowman declined to comment on the office’s decision not to file charges against him, but Allen’s relatives and attorneys said prosecutors had rightfully bowed to the video evidence.
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Allen’s lawyers plugged a computer monitor into a television truck after the magistrate hearing and replayed the exonerating evidence. His 8½-month pregnant wife, Valencia Allen, narrated scenes of the pair shopping for baby supplies at a Burlington Coat Factory, a Walgreens and a Wal-Mart in the Houston suburb of Humble.
There was no way Allen could have been in Texas and in the Upper 9th Ward at the same time, defense lawyer Kevin Boshea said, “unless he’s Han Solo and he’s flying the Millennium Falcon.”
Allen remains in jail, for now. Boshea said his client still has an open warrant in Texas, which was issued when authorities there believed he had violated his parole in a separate case by traveling to New Orleans at the time of the Bunny Friend shooting. That matter could be disposed of in another hearing Friday.
Allen’s wife said the ordeal raised serious questions about the police investigation. She said she told a 5th District detective in New Orleans that her husband was with her in Texas on the night of the playground shooting but that the police obtained a warrant for his arrest regardless.
Valencia Allen said that apparently all it took to be arrested in connection with the mass shooting was for “one person (to) go into the 5th District (station) and give a name.”
Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said detectives did not receive any “verified” information about Allen’s whereabouts before he was arrested. When Allen turned himself in, Gamble added, he did not provide a statement to police.
“After the arrest, we continued to investigate Allen’s statement about his whereabouts during the shooting, which we have now been able to confirm,” Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said.
Warrants for at least two of the other suspects were obtained on the word of a single witness.
Police claim that 19-year-old Lawrence Veals and 22-year-old Rashad Walker have both admitted to firing shots in the park.
“We have a strong case against the four other suspects in custody and the remaining wanted suspects,” Harrison said. “We will continue to follow this investigation wherever it leads us so we can take every individual involved in this violent incident off of our streets.”