Usually, there wasn’t any trouble when Jonathan Vilela walked to his Uptown apartment after a shift of serving drinks at Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar in the Warehouse District.
But things went very badly on the morning of June 3, when the 30-year-old bartender was shot twice during a botched holdup at Lee Circle. SWAT team officers later arrested a pair of brothers in New Orleans East in connection with the shooting.
Although homicides are down sharply so far this year in New Orleans, total shootings remain a persistent concern. The city is on pace to tally 412 shootings in 2016, according to local crime analyst Jeff Asher. That’s 5 percent more than in 2015.
Vilela’s story illustrates how quickly a simple stroll home from work can turn into a life-altering experience.
“It’s definitely slowed me down considerably, but I’m bouncing back with every day,” Vilela said. “I’m just happy to be alive, and from now on I’m not going to take life for granted.”
Vilela said he was walking through Lee Circle about 4:15 a.m. on his way home from work when a man approached him and asked for money, which he refused to hand over. The man then started reaching for Vilela’s bag, and he fought back.
That’s when Vilela spotted the gun. He was able to knock it out of the assailant’s hand, but then a second man joined the fight and the two attackers overpowered Vilela. They took his bag, and the initial attacker shot him twice.
At first, Vilela could not believe what had happened.
“When they shot me, all I could think about was the pain for a few seconds, and then I decided to call 911, because there was no one else around,” he said.
An ambulance arrived and took him to University Medical Center. Both bullets had gone clean through his body, he said. One hit his leg, and the other cut through his small intestine. He went into surgery immediately and remained in the intensive-care unit for three days.
A few weeks later, police turned up surveillance video of the robbery. Footage shows the perpetrator being dropped off by someone driving a gray 1999 Chevrolet Silverado with a red stripe, then jumping back in the truck after the holdup.
Police believe the same vehicle was used in the armed robbery of another man in the 800 block of Convention Center Boulevard the night before Vilela was shot.
According to a police report, SWAT team officers spotted the truck in New Orleans East on Saturday. Greg Moore, 37, was driving, and Deago Moore, 30, was in the passenger seat.
Both men were taken in for questioning. Police said Greg Moore admitted to repeatedly dropping off and then picking up his brother on the night of June 2 and morning of June 3.
The police report does not say whether Greg Moore confessed to knowing that he was serving as a getaway driver. But at one point, police said, he did admit that his brother looked “disheveled and like he had been in a fight” after being picked up at Lee Circle.
Greg Moore, who, according to booking records, lives in the 3300 block of Garden Oaks Drive in Algiers, was booked on two counts of armed robbery. He remained in jail in lieu of $200,000 bail on Monday.
Deago Moore, from Irvington, Alabama, was arrested on two counts of aggravated battery and two counts of armed robbery with a firearm. He remained in jail in lieu of $300,000 bail.
Vilela, meanwhile, said he is focused on getting his strength back. He lost 27 pounds in the hospital and has only recently been able to venture outside to the grocery store, he said. It will be at least a month, he said, before he can return to work at Lucy’s.
And he is done trying to fight off armed men. “I would definitely give him whatever he wanted to avoid this kind of injury again, because it’s not worth it,” he said.