The lead detective who investigated a 2003 school shooting at an Orleans Parish high school described a grisly scene where gunmen stood over the body of one of their victims and shot him to death with an AK-47.
New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Detective Danny McMullen testified before Judge Robin Giarusso Orleans Parish Civil District Court in a liability case against the NOPD and the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).
Orleans residents Valerie Barracks, Angela Robair, Johnnie Brown, Keva Jackson, Michelle Brown and Gloria Williams are suing the OPSB and the NOPD on behalf of their children who were victims and witnesses to the shooting at John McDonogh 28 high school, which resulted in one death and three injuries.
The plaintiffs claim that the defendants did not take the necessary precautions to protect the student body, including ignoring signs that the shooting victim was the target of a rival gang and failing to close a hole in a fence through which the shooters gained entrance to the school.
McMullen, who was the lead investigator for the 2003 murder, testified that the killing was "absolutely" a "symbolic" murder. The victim, Jonathan Williams, had been associated with a local gang and there was a handgun found on him after he was murdered. The murder was in retaliation for a shooting that had occurred a week earlier, according to court documents.
McMullen testified that a high concentration of AK-47 bullet casings around Williams' body, as well as bullet holes in the gymnasium floor, indicated that his murderers stood over Williams' body before shooting him with the assault rifle.
When asked about whether the four school security personnel and one NOPD officer stationed at the school could have prevented the murderers from entering the gym, McMullen said that he did not know but that an AK-47 is "very high capacity armament" and would be difficult to stop in any situation.
"If someone walks in here with an AK-47 and I don't have a gun drawn, I'm trying to beat the judge to the door," he said.
McMullen's testimony came towards the end of the fourth day of the trial, which had been continued from October. The case could have major implications for OPSB liability when it comes to security and student safety.
All nine suspects in the murder, including the two shooters, were apprehended within two days of the shooting. The arrests led to the first criminal convictions for conspiracy to murder in Orleans Parish.
New Orleans attorneys Clifford Cardone, Patricia Dean, Peter Derbes and Metairie attorney Clement Donelon are representing the plaintiffs. Cardone filed Barracks' original petition for damages in April 2003. That case was consolidated with suits filed by Robair, Brown and Williams.
New Orleans attorneys Roy Rodney Jr., Norlisha Parker Burke and John Etter are representing the OPSB. The New Orleans City Attorney's office is representing the NOPD.
Orleans Parish Case 2003-06336