Friends of a local registered nurse and mother are mourning after she was fatally shot on Bourbon Street early Sunday during a fight that didn’t involve her.

Julie Couvillon, 36, had spent Saturday at Carnival parades with friends before heading to Bourbon for a rare late night out, said her close friend and former co-worker, Rosaleen Brown.

Brown said she and countless others were heartbroken to learn Couvillon was the woman who authorities say when killed when gunfire erupted during a struggle at a Willie’s Chicken Shack between a security guard and a rowdy patron the guard was trying to toss out.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Brown said. “It just breaks my heart that her daughter doesn’t have a mom anymore.”

According to Brown and social media posts, Couvillon was a graduate of Mount Carmel Academy. State records show she obtained her license to work as a registered nurse in 2005, and she spent 13 years as an employee of Ochsner Health System, the hospital group said in a statement Sunday. 

"Julie was a beloved nurse who dedicated her life to caring for others," Ochsner's statement said in part. "This is a devastating loss to the nurses, employees, physicians and staff across our system. We offer our deepest condolences to her family and the families of the other victims.”


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Brown said she spoke with Couvillon shortly before Couvillon went out with friends Saturday. Brown recalled telling Couvillon to enjoy herself but be careful, never imagining that would be the last time they spoke.

Authorities haven’t officially identified Couvillon.

But Brown and multiple posts on social media said Couvillon was the woman who was nearby when a security guard at Willie’s Chicken Shack was removing a 37-year-old patron named Louis Barnes.

Barnes was getting kicked out for trying to sell drugs in Willie's, the business said. Police said Barnes stole the guard’s gun outside and started shooting, wounding himself, the guard, and the woman identified to The Advocate as Couvillon.

Brown said it was almost impossible to comprehend that a man being kicked out of an eatery would grab a gun, pull the trigger on a crowded street, and take a life.

“She was such a great person – I would’ve done anything for her,” Brown said of Couvillon. “A lot of my friends … are completely devastated.”

Barnes was jailed later Sunday on counts of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. He was wearing a hospital gown when his mug shot was taken, and it appeared that there was a bandage over his right shoulder.

Barnes would face mandatory life imprisonment if eventually convicted of murder.

Sunday was the latest of several run-ins with the law that Barnes has had. He was in court just over a month ago to be arraigned on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender. He pleaded not guilty in a case for which he was out on a $5,000 bond, and he was due back in court on that matter Monday, records show. 

Barnes was required to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty in 2015 to carnal knowledge of a juvenile, admitting he had sex with a 15-year-old girl roughly four years earlier, according to Jefferson Parish court records.

He received a two-year prison sentence.

Willie’s Chicken Shack issued a statement Sunday extending the “most sincere condolences to the victims and their families.”

“We take extra measures in hiring our own security detail to make sure our patrons and staff are safe at all times,” the statement said. “This tragedy during the Mardi Gras season should serve as a message that our community needs to be as diligent as ever to combat crime in the French Quarter.”

The company providing security at the Willie’s Chicken Shack in question is Elite Protection Solutions LLC, which was formed in June. Elite's owner, Willie Harris, said the wounded guard could move most of his extremities except his left arm. 

Harris said the guard began working with Elite within the last month and was properly licensed through the state to work as a private, armed security guard. Harris pledged that Elite would take care of him as he recovered from Sunday's shooting. 

He said Couvillon's slaying was "tragic" and that his company extended its condolences to her friends and family as well. He said the bloodshed Sunday morning was a frightening example of how dangerous private security work can be, especially on Bourbon, where late-night revelry occasionally turns violent with little notice. 

"We hire and train these officers to do the best they can, but sometimes you don't know who's coming up to you," he said. 


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Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.