Cornelius Barthelemy, laid up in a hospital bed after taking a slug to his side, looked at surveillance pictures New Orleans police showed him and acknowledged he was one of two men photographed in front of a Marigny po-boy shop early Sunday morning when Officer Jonathan Smith fired off eight rounds after someone pointed a gun in his face.
But, Barthelemy told investigators, he didn’t remember being there at that time.
While Barthelemy’s memory seemingly failed him, one of his suspected accomplices apparently had a sharper recollection of what happened. James Wilson said Barthelemy saw Officer Jonathan Smith while driving through the neighborhood and announced, “I’m ’bout to kill this cop.”
Wilson allegedly made that statement to New Orleans police Monday before refusing to say anything else without an attorney present. Prosecutors said during an earlier court hearing for Barthelemy that the shooting appeared to be a botched attempt at robbing Gene’s Po-Boys at Elysian Fields and St. Claude avenues.
After meeting with investigators, Wilson, 26, was booked on a count of first-degree murder and a count of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.
According to an application for an arrest warrant, Wilson, who goes by the nickname “Renegade,” told police in an interview that he and Barthelemy, who work together at a seafood restaurant, and a third man, Caesar Adams, ate dinner at a restaurant in Metairie, apparently on Saturday night, and then went to a house party in New Orleans.
Wilson, who lives in Port Sulphur, said he did not know where the party was because he is not familiar with the city.
The men left the party with Barthelemy driving them in a Ford Expedition, Wilson told police.
As they passed Gene’s Po-Boys about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, Barthelemy saw Smith and said he wanted to kill the officer, according to Wilson.
Barthelemy, 34, parked the SUV on Elysian Fields just off St. Claude, and he and Adams, 36, walked to the corner where Smith stood in his NOPD uniform while working an off-duty detail.
Wilson said he got back into the SUV and turned on the engine. He refused to say anything else until he had an attorney present, according to the application for the warrant.
Video that police previously released shows Barthelemy and Adams rounding the corner and darting back around it 10 seconds later.
Barthelemy appears to grip his side with one hand and hold a gun in the other. Adams stumbles to the ground before limping away to the SUV, which Wilson had backed down the street before speeding away once both men got inside.
According to court documents, Barthelemy pointed a gun at Smith, leading to the exchange of gunfire that wounded both suspects and the officer.
The bloodstained SUV was found hours later at a Gretna apartment complex. Adams’ dead body was in the back, and Barthelemy was inside a relative’s apartment with an untreated gunshot wound.
After his arrest, Barthelemy told police that he knew the third suspect only as “Renegade.”
Wilson walked into the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office on Monday afternoon and identified himself as “Renegade,” saying he was wanted in connection with the shooting.
An Orleans Parish magistrate judge on Tuesday set Wilson’s bail at $500,000 for the charge of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer but denied bail for the first-degree murder charge.
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.
Like Wilson, 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 murder charge if a person dies during a robbery.
Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell on Monday set Barthelemy’s bail at $500,000 for the attempted murder charge but denied bail for the murder charge.
Smith remained hospitalized Tuesday.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.