Enemies wanted Carrollton man dead before his arrest, New Orleans police say _lowres

Romalis Williams

Police wanted Romalis “Ro” Williams in handcuffs, but his rivals in the Pigeon Town section of Carrollton preferred a coffin. The cops won.

Authorities arrested Williams, 23, at a Jefferson Parish apartment March 9. He has been booked on 16 counts accusing him of everything from wild street shootings to a robbery at the artisanal bakery Breads on Oak.

Second District Cmdr. Shaun Ferguson said that even as a teenager, Williams was well-known to police. In the end, it took Crimestoppers tips, surveillance video and the word of Williams’ own mother to bring about his arrest last week.

Police allege in a thick stack of warrants that Williams’ recent crime spree started with a shooting at Monroe and Birch streets on Sept. 7. As a white Chevrolet Cruze dodged a pothole, police said, shots began to ring out.

None of the four men inside the vehicle was injured, but a stray round grazed a 53-year-old woman as she ran for shelter. Police said they recovered three .40-caliber shell casings, seven 9 mm casings and two .380 casings from the scene.

A friend of Williams confessed to being on the scene and told investigators that Williams had fired at the vehicle with a .380 handgun, police said. Authorities obtained a warrant for his arrest Sept. 28.

Then, on the night of Jan. 6, a man in an Orlando Magic jacket with a silver-and-black handgun walked into the Burger King at 2423 S. Carrollton Ave. The man tried to rob the register, police said, but finally gave up and fled on a bicycle.

On Jan. 30, police said, a man robbed the Breads on Oak bakery, again wearing a Magic jacket and wielding a silver-and-black handgun. This time, the robber grabbed a female employee by the hair and forced a cashier to hand over money from the register, police said.

After surveillance footage from that robbery was released to the public, police said in a warrant, investigators caught a break. A “concerned citizen” called Detective Jerry Baldwin to say Williams’ mother, Glinda Williams, had identified her son as the perpetrator while looking at a photograph of the robbery.

Police said that while they were investigating those robberies, another shooting happened Feb. 17 in Pigeon Town, the area of Carrollton on the river side of South Claiborne Avenue between Leonidas Street and the Jefferson Parish line. The victim was traveling downriver on Green Street, approaching Eagle Street, when a man in a black mask began to shoot at him.

A witness later told police, according to a warrant, that Williams was seated on a porch when he saw the vehicle roll up. According to the witness, Williams began to smile, said “I should do it” and started shooting. The target of the shooting was not harmed.

By that time, Williams was attracting unwelcome attention in Pigeon Town, Ferguson said.

“The streets were on him,” the police commander said. “We were being told that they had a couple of guys looking to kill him.”

Detectives brought in Williams’ mother for an interview Feb. 25. She at first refused to identify her son as the Breads on Oak robber, police said. But then she admitted, according to a warrant, that the Orlando Magic jacket belonged to her boyfriend. She then added, police said, that she had indeed told family members that her son was the robber.

Ferguson said he believes Glinda Williams finally spoke because she was afraid for her son’s life.

“She was actually one of the people telling us that she believed there was a hit out for her son,” Ferguson said. “So she was trying to hopefully talk him into turning himself into us to get him off the streets, so nothing would happen to him. But he wouldn’t listen to her.”

Williams kept moving to stay ahead of both would-be killers and police officers, Ferguson said, but he returned to Pigeon Town. Police allege that on March 8, he threatened to shoot at a woman in the neighborhood who he believed had called in a Crimestoppers tip about him.

The next day, police made their move. Working from tips about the vehicle Williams used, New Orleans officers, U.S. marshals and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested him without incident in the 200 block of Jules Avenue, a few blocks across the parish line.

Williams was booked on counts of illegal possession of stolen things and theft in Jefferson, then transferred to the Orleans Justice Center on Sunday.

He is being held there on five counts of aggravated assault with a firearm, one count of armed robbery, one count of attempted armed robbery, one count of negligent injuring, two counts of illegal use of a weapon, four counts of aggravated criminal damage to property and one count of simple criminal damage to property.

A judge set Williams’ bail at $527,500. Court records indicate he has not obtained a defense attorney.

Ferguson said with Williams behind bars, he hopes calm will return to Pigeon Town.

“We had a few shootings over the last couple of months there, and his name was always involved in it — some way, somehow,” Ferguson said. “As a result of this arrest, it should subside.”