A shooting at Melba’s Restaurant about 3 p.m. Wednesday claimed the life of a 24-year-old man and launched police on a house-to-house search for suspects in the St. Roch neighborhood.
Surveillance video showed the dramatic scene in the parking lot of the popular eatery at Elysian Fields and North Claiborne avenues as a man jumped out of a white Hyundai and unleashed a barrage of shots into a late-model red Honda.
“Where is that coming from?” Melba’s owner Scott Wolfe said he asked himself as he heard the shots. “It sounded pretty close.”
At least two men were inside the Hyundai. They had been waiting there before the red car arrived. After the man on the driver’s side of the white car poured rounds into the Honda, another man on the passenger side of the car leaned out, appearing to shoot more rounds at the Honda.
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It was all over in seconds. As the Hyundai sped off toward the river on Marigny Street, a police car from the 5th District responded to the scene in hot pursuit against traffic on North Robertson Street but lost sight of the car, said NOPD spokesman Officer Frank Robertson.
Neighbor James Aho was in an RV outside a house he’s renovating on Marigny Street when the shooting happened. He said he had just come back from picking up a cup of coffee at Melba’s when he heard 20 to 25 shots.
After the Hyundai and the police car shot down Marigny Street, the red Honda followed. Minutes later, the vehicle crashed two miles away at the corner of Bienville and Crozat streets near the largely vacant Iberville housing complex.
The 24-year-old passenger in the Honda was dead on the scene. As investigators moved his body onto a Coroner’s Office stretcher, it appeared to fall, sending gasps through the crowd.
The car’s rear was riddled with bullet holes. Another man in the car, 23, was wounded in the arm during the shooting.
Police said later they had booked 26-year-old Jacob Love on a second-degree murder count in the shooting and recovered two guns. A second male suspect is believed to be at large.
While some officers were tending to the crash scene near Basin Street, a SWAT team was combing houses in St. Roch for the suspected shooters.
Widow Centauri said she was walking up to the St. Roch Tavern as police arrived.
“I just showed up and there was a SWAT team everywhere,” Centauri said. “I ran past it to St. Roch Tavern to get a drink.”
A blues band called the Slick Skillet Serenaders was stuck inside the bar during the manhunt. They played on.
Homicide Detective Rayell Johnson is in charge of the investigation and can be contacted at (504) 658-5300.