In an effort to show Uptown residents that the city is working hard to solve a string of recent armed robberies in their area, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison held an unusual joint news conference Monday to announce the arrest of a 16-year-old who is suspected of riding his bike to commit several robberies, a rifle slung on his back inside a folding-chair bag.
Police remain on the hunt for the gunmen who held up employees and customers at Patois and Atchafalaya restaurants in two separate incidents that have shaken the community.
The 16-year-old’s arrest occurred about 10 p.m. Friday, according to police. As 2nd District Officer Everett Route was patrolling Uptown in a marked unit, Harrison said, he spotted a bike-riding teen who fit a description of the armed robbery suspect.
Route turned on his lights and started following the teen, but he jumped the curb with his bike, took off down a side street and was able to escape for the moment. Other officers who had been summoned as backup converged on the area near Chestnut and Gen. Pershing streets, less than two blocks from 2nd District headquarters, and two of them were able to stop the teen in a parking lot.
They said they found a revolver in his possession.
NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said the unnamed teenager was booked on one count of illegal carrying of a weapon, two counts of aggravated assault, six counts of armed robbery with a firearm and one count of simple burglary.
After detectives obtained a search warrant for the teen’s address in the 3600 block of Earhart Boulevard, police said, they found five smart phones, clothing that matched a robbery victim’s description and a lever-action rifle in a folding-chair bag.
That is believed to be the weapon that victims in three separate armed robberies this month had identified to police as a shotgun.
On the night of Sept. 5, a 34-year-old woman in the 1300 block of Marengo Street was approached from behind and forced to hand over property.
On the night of Sept. 18, a couple was held up in the 5000 block of Prytania Street by an armed man who fled on a bike after stealing their property. Another woman reported being held up in the same way minutes later that same night near Gen. Pershing and Perrier streets.
Police also recorded two robberies on Friday night, just minutes before the unnamed suspect was spotted, in the 1300 block of Milan Street and then at the corner of Milan and Camp streets. First, a 28-year-old man was robbed of cash about 9:45 p.m., police said. Then a 50-year-old woman was stripped of her purse and thrown to the ground about five minutes later.
Police believe they have connected the teen to all of those robberies, and they are seeking to determine whether he may have been responsible for more. Harrison said police would push for the courts to try the teen as an adult.
“If they commit adult behavior, then they’re going to be treated as adults,” Harrison said.
Police have not definitively connected those two crimes to each other, said Harrison, but they see clear similarities and are still investigating both.
Police took roughly 25 minutes to respond after the Patois staff and patrons were robbed, though they arrived at Atchafalaya much more quickly.
Both crimes prompted impassioned responses from Uptown residents on social media complaining about perceived police ineffectiveness, and City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell issued a news release saying that residents “must demand better.”
Landrieu and Harrison pointed to a variety of efforts to reduce police response times. Harrison said he has moved 30 officers from desk duty onto the streets and created a new unit to handle property crimes that can be reported over the phone.