NEW ORLEANS -- Nobody disputes the fact that Eddie Dingle fatally shot Maurice Williams on the St. Charles Avenue parade route on Mardi Gras day.
But while Dingle, 21, was booked with second-degree murder after he turned himself in days later, his attorney and family claim Dingle fired the shots while defending himself and his family.
At a press conference after Dingle surrendered, Attorney Lionel “Lon” Burns portrayed Williams, 30, as the aggressor. Burns said his client was forced to defend himself after he was hit below the eye with a pipe wrench.
“The victim takes off his shirt and comes charging at the guy who's in a daze and has the baby in his arms," Burns said at the press briefing. "The dad, at that point, decides, ‘I have to use deadly force to protect my family.’”
Williams’ family is now disputing Dingle’s version of events, and they have video evidence to back them up.
The family, about a dozen of whom witnessed the minor argument that eventually escalated into the fatal shooting, says the defense version of the confrontation is a “complete lie.”
The family says that not only was Williams not the aggressor, but he never removed his shirt, Dingle was not holding a baby and there was no pipe wrench.
“They’re lying to get him out,” said witness Alanna Blazio, Williams’ aunt. “Complete lies. Maurice, if anything, was trying to break everything up. He was trying to be a peacemaker in the whole situation.”
The family has two separate cell phone videos to counter the claims made by Burns and Dingle’s family.
In one video, visible in the background, Eddie Dingle along with this brother, Devin, can been seen charging into tent occupied by Williams’ group. A cousin of Williams appears to fend them off with a couple of punches, visibly sending Eddie Dingle reeling backward.
Williams’ family says the welt under Dingle’s eye could have come from that punch.
“They were punches. No pipe wrench was involved,” said Taylor Freeman, a cousin who witnessed the altercation.
“They came into our tent and attacked all of us. And they wouldn't stop,” Blazio said.
WWL-TV legal analyst Pauline Hardin said the video could be important legally to shed light on the question of who was the aggressor, which is critical in a self-defense claim.
“If you are the aggressor, you cannot claim self-defense unless you have retreated from the incident,” Hardin said.
Last week at a bail reduction hearing, Burns repeated his version of the shooting, repeating his claim that Williams ripped off his shirt and charged the Dingle family “like the Incredible Hulk.”
After weighing Burns’ argument, Magistrate Commissioner Albert Thibodeaux reduced Dingle’s bail from $250,000 to $150,000.
But cell phone video obtained exclusively by WWL-TV shows Williams moments after he was shot, with his shirt still on his body.
“He (Williams) was never the aggressor,” Blazio said. “This was not his fight. This was not something that was meant for him.”
Two additional factors are expected to be raised at tomorrow's bail hearing. The first is Dingle's arrest for illegal possession of a gun on the campus of Grambling University exactly one month before Mardi Gras shooting. That case is pending.
Also, Burns is expected to try and discredit a witness statement that Dingle fired two additional bullets into the crowd after shooting Williams, a statement included in a preliminary police account of the shooting. Burns has requested an appearance by the lead homicide detective to try and refute that statement.