‘Person of interest’ not talking to police about Uptown restaurant robberies _lowres

Dwayne Winins

A month and a half after the last high-profile armed robbery of an Uptown eatery, police on Sunday named a person of interest who they said might have information about the dramatic holdups at the Patois and Atchafalaya restaurants and Monkey Hill bar.

But almost as soon as Dwayne “Butter” Winins turned himself in on an apparently unrelated felony warrant on Monday morning, police said, he clammed up. Now a joint NOPD-FBI task force may be no closer than it was before to solving a string of crimes that transfixed the city.

The armed robberies happened at Patois on Aug. 20, at Atchafalaya on Sept. 24 and at Monkey Hill on Sept. 28. Police said that in each case, three masked men burst in and forced patrons and employees to hand over their belongings.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called in the federal government for assistance on the investigation after the last holdup. But since then, investigators have revealed little about what leads they are following.

Police on a stakeout that they said was related to the armed robberies arrested a pair of teenagers after a car chase in New Orleans East in October but quickly said that neither one was a suspect in the Uptown incidents.

Patois co-owner Leon Touzet said detectives have not disclosed any new information about the investigation to him recently. The latest he had heard, he said, was about three weeks ago. He was told then that a landscaper cutting grass outside a New Orleans East bar had found Touzet’s shredded wallet, which contained his credit cards.

Police have not said why they believe Winins, 21, could have information about the armed robberies; he has not been named as a suspect in them.

New Orleans Police Department spokesman Officer Frank Robertson said Winins refused to cooperate with detectives after his arrest and was quickly booked as an accessory after the fact to a May murder.

Assistant District Attorney Alex Calenda said in court when the indictment was returned Thursday that Winins was a passenger in a car along with a murder suspect named Wesley Davis. An unknown driver led U.S. marshals on a high-speed chase across the city Oct. 28 before crashing into one of their vehicles and then driving away. Winins was able to escape.

Police said that for now, they do not suspect a connection between the May murder and the Uptown armed robberies, which occurred months later.

“We haven’t linked those two together,” Robertson said. “We believe that they’re possibly two totally separate incidents.”

Winins has used several last names in his dealings with police and the courts, including Winans and Winns, Robertson said.

Authorities said they were able to sort out his real identity with the help of fingerprints and information from his family.

A judge ordered Winins held on $250,000 bail. His next court date is set for Nov. 30.