A dispute over a delayed car repair job led to gunfire outside a St. Roch barbershop last month and the deaths of unborn twins after their mother was struck by a bullet to the stomach, according to court testimony Wednesday.
But an attorney for the man who admittedly fired the deadly shot, Renoldo Henry, argued that the circumstances were similar to another recent shooting in which the man who pulled the trigger walked away without being charged.
Pursing a self-defense claim, attorney John Fuller cited the case of Merritt Landry, a Marigny homeowner who avoided prosecution after shooting a 15-year-old who had jumped a fence into his yard one night in 2013.
In that case, Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office declined to file charges against Landry, leaving the decision to a grand jury, which refused to indict him.
“This is a clearer case of self-defense than Landry,” Fuller said after the hearing.
Cannizzaro’s office has not yet accepted the charges against Henry, 33. A spokesman said the office is still screening the case. But a prosecutor argued Wednesday that there was probable cause to keep Henry jailed.
She said Henry had every right to start shooting at the man who pulled a gun on him during the incident — but not to keep pursuing him and shooting at him after the other man had dropped his weapon and fled.
The shooting happened Feb. 5 after 26-year-old Hakeem Meade drove up in a U-Haul truck to the repair shop in the 2500 block of North Derbigny Street. Henry worked on cars there and also cut hair in a barbershop upstairs.
He told Meade that his car wasn’t ready yet, at which point Meade allegedly pulled a gun. According to one witness, Meade raised the weapon above his head and shouted, “I need my (expletive) car fixed! I feel like you’re (expletive) playing me!”
New Orleans Police Department Detective Thaddeus Williams testified that Henry tried to block Meade from entering the door to a stairwell, then ran upstairs toward the barbershop as Meade came after him.
“So this man pulls a gun out on a hard-working young man, right?” Fuller asked.
“Correct,” the detective replied.
“And Mr. Henry makes an effort to retreat, right?”
“And there was no consent (for Meade to enter the building)?” Fuller asked.
“Absolutely correct,” the detective responded.
Henry, who did not testify Wednesday, claims he shouted down to Meade, “They have kids up here!” before the gunfire erupted.
The detective testified that Henry then fired his own gun, striking Meade in the shoulder and sending him running down the stairs, leaving a trail of blood that led outside.
Meade dropped his semi-automatic gun in the stairwell, and Henry picked it up as he gave chase down the stairs.
Henry fired at least one shot into the busy street outside, striking Meade’s girlfriend, who was nearly five months pregnant and sitting in the rental truck. The woman survived, but her unborn twins did not, Williams said. The deaths of the two unborn children had not been disclosed previously.
That’s where Henry went too far, Assistant District Attorney Autumn Cheramie argued during Wednesday’s hearing.
“The state’s not arguing that Mr. Renoldo Henry wasn’t justified in actually the majority of what occurred that day,” Cheramie said. But he was not justified when he continued shooting even after Meade had been hit and dropped his weapon, Cheramie said, not when Meade “was already outside of the business on a public street — on a very busy public street.”
State law defines a justifiable use of force as one “committed for the purpose of preventing a forcible offense against the person or a forcible offense or trespass against property in a person’s lawful possession, provided that the force or violence used must be reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent such offense.”
The detective said Henry admitted in a statement to police that he fired first, although Fuller argued that it was Meade who got off the first round.
Spent shell casings from two guns — possibly both fired by Henry, since he picked up Meade’s weapon — were found at the scene. Henry told police he discarded the guns in a trash bin, and he also disabled a video surveillance system set up in the barbershop.
He was booked the same day on two counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of obstruction of justice and a count of attempted first-degree feticide, prior to confirmation of the deaths.
Meade also was arrested and booked on a count of aggravated assault with a firearm. He is free on $20,000 bail.
Following Wednesday’s hearing, Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell found probable cause to hold Henry on the charges, while keeping his bail at $130,000. Henry remained jailed Wednesday.
Meade’s attorney, J.C. Lawrence, said Henry shot his client five times, including two bullets to the head after he ran out of the building. Meade “didn’t fire any shots,” Lawrence said.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.