Contradicting a statement he made two days earlier claiming his client “wasn’t there” when bullets flew on Bourbon Street last month, attorney Martin Regan said Friday that Trung Le did, in fact, open fire during the June 29 gunfight but only in self-defense after another man cocked his weapon and pointed it at Le and others.
It was the first time anyone representing Le, 20, acknowledged he fired the first shots. But Regan said he intends to present evidence that it was the second, still-unidentified gunman who killed 21-year-old Brittany Thomas and wounded nine other people.
“The person that started this incident, it will be shown, was an intoxicated gentleman who walked up to at least four individuals. He was obviously drunk to anybody that was there, swaying back and forth. Without any cause whatsoever he pulled out a gun and said, ‘I got a .40-caliber for you,’ cocked it in front of these people, then ... pointed it at the four people,” Regan told reporters outside the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Regan said the unidentified gunman was “shot at in self-defense by somebody who could legally shoot back. Mr. Le was truly one of the potential victims of this drunk with the .40-caliber weapon.”
Seeking to show a lack of evidence that would justify keeping Le jailed without bail, Regan appeared before Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell to argue that he knows of two witnesses who can support Le’s version of events.
Regan later declined to elaborate on the people who reportedly described a scenario police have not corroborated, saying only that a “reliable source” told his office about them.
“I’m certain these witnesses exist,” he said.
The NOPD said Friday it could not comment on the open case. The department has said only that two shooters sprayed bullets in what Superintendent Ronal Serpas said was a trivial spat.
Regan’s about-face came as Cantrell once again denied a request to move forward a preliminary hearing scheduled for Aug. 26.
That request appeared aimed at eliciting testimony from police officers and others before District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office can seek a grand jury indictment.
“My client is sitting in jail and suffering,” Regan told the judge. “If I’m correct with my evidence, my client is the only one suffering.”
That statement drew a rebuke from Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue, who noted Regan’s seemingly inconsistent story lines and pounced on the claim of Le’s suffering and the request for a faster hearing.
“I can assure you, Brittany Thomas — the dead girl — her family is suffering,” Rodrigue said. “This should be treated like any other case that comes through the front door of Tulane and Broad.”
She said the DA’s Office doubts there is evidence that could clear Le of the charges he faces.
“If he thinks he’s sitting there because he’s acted in self-defense or has an alibi, I’m all ears,” Rodrigue said, inviting Regan and Le to meet with the DA’s staff.
Regan’s statements Friday appeared to contradict remarks he made Wednesday, when he maintained that Le “wasn’t the shooter,” based on “other evidence of an alibi nature.”
Regan has said video evidence from shops and bars around the shooting, if preserved, would clear his client.
“He wasn’t the shooter on Bourbon Street,” he said Wednesday.
Regan, who was hired this week by Le’s family, is appealing Cantrell’s ruling regarding the hearing date, as well as his ruling that Regan cannot subpoena video evidence from French Quarter bar owners.
Le was arrested July 4 in Gulfport, Mississippi, hours after police named him as a suspect and obtained a warrant for his arrest on one count of first-degree murder and nine counts of attempted first-degree murder. He was later extradited to New Orleans.
Regan declined to say why Le might have fled the state.
“I know the answer, but I’m not in a position to tell you right now,” he told reporters.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.