New Orleans killings surge in March; 3 dead in violent 24 hours _lowres

Hollygrove shooting victim Bernard Breaux. Family provided.

A father gunned down by masked men in front of his child. A man found dead in an abandoned lot in New Orleans East. A delivery man shot in broad daylight at an Algiers gas station.

After a quiet February, the streets of New Orleans have exploded in gun violence in the first few days of March, leaving seven dead and eight wounded. The shootings have spanned the city, climaxing in a 24-hour stretch Monday and Tuesday in which three people were killed and four more were injured.

The New Orleans Police Department says there have been fewer homicides this year than last — 22 compared with 30 at this point in 2015 — but the quickening pace has highlighted how volatile those statistics can be and now threatens to swallow the decrease in killings thus far.

Bernard Breaux was added to the growing toll Monday afternoon. Breaux, 46, was with one of his children barbecuing in front of his house about 2:15 p.m. in the 3600 block of Hollygrove Street, police said, when two men in ski masks and dark clothing approached and started shooting.

Breaux’s friend of 25 years, Corey McDermott, didn’t see the attackers, but he heard the shots from down the street. McDermott said he raced to the house and tried to help Breaux breathe. Before the ambulance arrived, he said, Breaux repeated “Help me” over and over.

“That’s what kills me,” said McDermott, 39, “looking in his eyes.”

Breaux was taken to University Medical Center, where he died.

Six hours later, police found a man dead inside a vehicle in the parking lot of an abandoned food store near the corner of Bullard Avenue and Lake Forest Boulevard in New Orleans East.

Police said the victim, who thus far has been identified only as an Asian male, was dead on the scene.

Then, about 10:45 p.m., according to a police offense log, a road-rage incident erupted in shooting, though no one was killed. Police said the person who was shot, a 48-year-old man, had been straddling lanes on the Alvar Street bridge and did not let another vehicle pass. The victim continued to a strip mall at Chef Menteur Highway and Desire Street, where another driver from the bridge took out a gun and shot him in the leg.

Homicide detectives were back to work the next morning. Just after 10 a.m. Tuesday, police received word that three men had been shot near the corner of Josephine and Willow streets in Central City.

One 24-year-old victim died in surgery at University Medical Center.

Police spokeswoman Dawne Massey said two more victims, 28 and 37, appeared to have non-life-threatening wounds. The survivors told police they heard 12 to 15 shots and began fleeing before they were hit.

Clothes and at least 18 evidence cones lay scattered on the ground after the shooting, which took place near an empty lot.

As with the prior shootings, police did not announce any arrests, but investigators believe a red vehicle seen in the area may have been involved.

The Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office has not released the names of the victims from Monday night or Tuesday morning.

The next shooting took place about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at a Chevron gas station near the corner of Gen. de Gaulle and Shirley drives in Algiers.

The victim’s head was covered in blood as paramedics rushed him into an ambulance after the incident. Worried employees of a beer distributor said the victim worked as a delivery man but declined to comment further.

The man was taken to University Medical Center, and police did not announce any updates on his condition Tuesday afternoon. Homicide detectives — who are often called to the scenes of non-fatal but life-threatening shootings — worked around the edges of a large puddle of blood in front of the gas station’s ice chest.

Back on the east bank about 3 p.m., near the corner of Gen. Ogden and Marks streets, more shots were fired.

Witnesses told police that an injured man with blood on his shirt was seen running, while two men fled in a tan Chevrolet Trailblazer. Hours later, however, no victims had appeared at area hospitals.

A few blocks away, members of Breaux’s family gathered Tuesday afternoon to console each other and make preparations for his funeral.

They had been through those sudden, somber rituals before. Cousin Dana Burresch said Breaux’s younger brother Kenneth was murdered at age 15 in the late 1980s. Breaux’s 19-year-old son, Brandon, was killed in Hollygrove in 2012 shortly before he was to graduate from high school.

Prosecutors said they believed Brandon was targeted in retaliation for a non-fatal shooting in which his brother, Bernard Baker, was implicated, according to a article. Breaux himself had a number of convictions for drug offenses.

Burresch recalled Breaux as a happy, giving cousin whom she shared her childhood with at crawfish boils, birthday parties and sleepovers. She described him as a loving father to his eight children, whom he called the “D-Nation.”

“He was a family man. He had a lot of kids, and he loved doing things with his kids,” she said.

Three of Breaux’s youngest children — a newborn, a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old — were at the house when he was killed. On Tuesday, two boys ran around the yard, seemingly unaware of their father’s death.

“I’ve seen what it can do. When his brother Kenneth died, it destroyed that family,” Burresch said. “It’s definitely going to leave a big hole.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct a reference to an earlier shooting tied to Brandon Baker’s death.