It was up to a jury to decide whether a man charged in last year’s shooting at Thibodaux Mardi Gras parade was acting in self-defense or arrived with the intent to kill.
After deliberating for a little over an hour Thursday, the jury returned to convict Ryan Harris, 22, of Napoleonville, of attempted second-degree murder, unlawful use of body armor, illegal carrying of a weapon and possession of a stolen firearm.
Thibodaux Police said Harris shot Quincy Johnson, 35, of Napoleonville, on the afternoon of Jan. 31, 2016, near the intersection of Canal Boulevard and Jackson Street. The incident occurred during the Krewe of Shaka parade.
Police said Johnson returned fire, striking Harris, and Harris ran. Officers found him lying in a median about 150 yards away.
Harris was wearing a bulletproof vest, police said. He and Johnson were treated at the scene before being transported to Thibodaux Regional Medical Center.
Johnson pleaded guilty Tuesday afternoon to attempted second-degree murder, reckless discharge of a firearm at a parade and possession of a firearm by a felon. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Police who testified for Harris’ trial said anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people had gathered along Canal Boulevard the day of the shooting. A projectile was found in a nearby party bus.
“This conviction closes the book on what could have been a major tragedy,” District Attorney Cam Morvant II said. “The city was fortunate that only these two suspects were injured.”
Gonzales attorney Anthony Marshall, who represents Harris, said he intends to file post-trial motions. He believes the jurors may have been so focused on the bulletproof vest that they didn’t give much thought to the other charges.
“I respectfully disagree with the jury’s decision,” he said. “Once they established he had body armor on, I think they didn’t really look at anything else.”
It’s not illegal for a civilian to wear body armor unless they’ve been convicted of a certain crime or are in the process of committing a crime. Harris had no prior convictions.
On Thursday, Harris’ older brother and 13-year-old cousin testified that they saw Johnson grab Harris by the shirt and demand money. Both said Harris tried to diffuse the situation.
Harris also took the stand, testifying that Johnson had sent him text messages threatening to kill him. He gave the same account as his brother and cousin, claiming he pushed Johnson back when he noticed the other man had a gun and that Johnson fired first.
Marshall pointed out that Harris was shot six times, while Johnson was shot once.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Chatagnier said in his closing argument that Harris tried to fire again, but the gun jammed.
Chatagnier said the fact that Johnson was shot in the chest meant Harris intended to kill him. He pointed to the body armor and the gun’s extended magazine as further proof.
“He came to settle a score,” Chatagnier said. “He prepared for battle.”
Harris said he’d wear the bulletproof vest whenever he wasn’t at work because he feared for his life. Chatagnier questioned why he would attend the parade if he was so afraid.
Marshall said Harris made “a dumb decision” to go to the parade despite threats on his life, but making a bad choice isn’t akin to committing a crime.
State District Judge Walter Lanier scheduled sentencing for Oct. 5.
-- Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.