A New Orleans police officer was injured by flying glass late Friday afternoon when a gunman fired at him after a shooting that claimed another man’s life at the Columbia Parc housing development in Gentilly.
Officer Kenneth Gill, an 11-year veteran of the force who is a quality-of-life officer for the 1st District, was hit by a piece of glass shrapnel or glass when the gunman fired multiple rounds at him.
Gill, whose injuries were described as mild, was working a security shift near the housing development.
He heard gunfire and proceeded toward it, finding a man lying shot on the ground at Hamburg and Caton streets, according to Police Superintendent Michael Harrison.
When Gill arrived, he saw a man running away with what the officer believed was an assault rifle and gave chase, Harrison said.
As Gill pursued, the man with the gun jumped into a white luxury vehicle driven by another man. At some point, the man with the gun fired at Gill, sending a bullet through the officer’s windshield. Flying glass injured him, police said.
The two men in the white vehicle were able to escape, and Gill then returned to the initial shooting scene to check on the victim, Harrison said.
“He’s going to be fine,” Harrison said of the officer. “It shows great, heroic work by this officer who ran toward gunfire, who while injured came back to check on this victim, who pursued these people relentlessly.”
A neighbor who declined to be identified said he saw the officer looking over the dead man’s body, his left arm “jerking” with what appeared to the witness to be a graze wound.
“Thank God that he was only grazed,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. “When you see the bullet hole in the car, you can know there’s something really terrible that could have happened.”
Several blocks away, near Paris Avenue and Lafreniere Street, State Police SUVs blocked off another crime scene that appeared to be related to the first one. One witness said he believed it was where police pursued the white vehicle after the initial shooting.
A witness at the second scene named Ron, who declined to give his last name, said the encounter there was like “something out of a Western.”
He said a vehicle heading toward the river on Paris Avenue made a sharp right turn onto Lafreniere Street and struck the fence of a home, with a police car following close behind it. Wielding what appeared to be an AK-47 assault-style rifle, the passenger in the vehicle emerged from the sunroof and opened fire, the man said.
“He unleashed some bullets in that block on the police car, which was swerving, I guess trying not to get hit,” he said. “It was just nothing but shooting.”
“I ran and got in my car,” he added. “It was absolutely unbelievable, unreal.”
Another woman who had just walked out onto her porch when she heard shots said the sound went “ ‘ta-ta-ta-ta-ta,’ never stopped.”
“It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “Where do they get these guns?”
Police said the white vehicle fled the area, possibly heading westbound on Interstate 610.
Hours after the shooting and after television cameras had left the scene, Harrison and Landrieu comforted a woman who acquaintances said was the mother of the dead man.
Homicide Detective Clinton Givens is in charge of the investigation and can be reached at (504) 658-5300.