A 23-year-old man whose body turned up inside a burning vehicle in New Orleans East more than two years ago had been killed by an associate days after the two men joined in a Central City gun assault that left a 63-year-old man dead and five others wounded, according to police.

The killing of Louis Perrette on Sept. 14, 2016, was meant to silence him over the deadly shooting three days earlier at First Street and South Claiborne Avenue, NOPD homicide detective Clinton Givens wrote in an arrest warrant affidavit.

Earnest McKnight, who cut grass in the neighborhood, was killed in the earlier melee, which police attributed to a gang feud.

Brandon “Poo” Butler, a former standout wide receiver for the Landry-Walker High School football team, is suspected in the Central City incident, as well as in a drug-related murder attempt two months later, on Nov. 30, 2016.

Last week, Butler, 22, was booked again while he sat jailed in Orleans Parish, this time on a charge of second-degree murder for Perrette’s slaying.

According to Givens, Perrette’s mother said her son had told her before his death that he was involved in the Central City melee. That account was supported, Givens wrote, by surveillance video showing Perrette’s vehicle near the Central City shooting scene.

Three days later, a home surveillance video captured a man who police suspect was Butler fleeing from the rear of a vehicle as it burst into flames in the 8700 block of Morrison Road. Authorities found Perrette's body inside.

A “known subject” told police he saw two men he identified as “K3” and “Pooh” running from the burning vehicle down Morrison Road, according to Givens. "Pooh" was Butler, Givens said, and “K3” was Keith Cooper, who was shot dead a month later on Pauger Street in the Seventh Ward. Cooper was 18.

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The New Orleans Police Department investigate a homicide scene next to the canal near the 8700 block of Morrison Road in New Orleans East, Wednesday September 14, 2016. A body was found inside a burned vehicle after New Orleans Fire Department extinguished the flames.

“It is believed (Perrette) did in fact participate” in the Central City attack, Givens wrote, and that “Butler and Cooper believed (Perrette) had been discussing the prior shooting with others, which would eventually lead to their arrests.”

Butler, 22; his mother, Crystal Butler; and Darion “D-Man” Audrict already are named in a 25-count indictment that accuses Butler of carrying out both the Central City shooting spree and the December 2016 murder attempt.

The alleged targets of the attack at First and Claiborne were two members of the notoriously violent “3NG” street gang, authorities said. They survived. McKnight, who was killed, had no connection to the gang activity, police have said.

A pistol recovered after a car chase in December 2016 links Butler to both shootings, according to the FBI. The indictment charges him with two counts of murder conspiracy, first-degree murder, six counts of attempted murder and racketeering conspiracy, among others.

Meanwhile, authorities claim Audrict at one point possessed a gun stolen from James Bennett, a Housing Authority of New Orleans police officer who was slain in May 2015 while patrolling a Guste housing development construction site. Audrict allegedly passed the gun on to another man. He has not been charged in Bennett's killing. 

With the state indictment, federal prosecutors dropped Butler from a drug and gun prosecution that ended in April with guilty pleas from his two co-defendants, Jamiron Barnes and Sean Briggs.

The warrant seeking Butler’s arrest for Perrette’s murder is dated Sept. 22, 2017. Why that crime wasn’t included in the state grand jury indictment handed up more than a year later, and whether it will be added to the pending charges against Butler, is unclear.


Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.