ST. CHARLES PARISH -- The man accused of shooting an ATM company employee in the arm during a botched robbery in Boutte stalked his victim as he made his way from a bank in Elmwood to a drive-thru line in Boutte, waiting for the right moment to try to steal the cash he had, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said Friday.
“This perpetrator obviously was willing to go to great lengths to get that cash that he saw,” Champagne said in announcing the arrest of 19-year-old Damon Bryant. “Something bad was going to happen somewhere that morning, and it was going to be the first place the victim stopped.”
Bryant was arrested Thursday evening in Avondale and booked on charges of attempted first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery after authorities staked out his home. Champagne said surveillance footage connected him to the shooting.
“We have video surveillance to corroborate all the facts,” Champagne said.
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In addition to the shooting in St. Charles, Bryant is suspected in three armed robberies in Jefferson Parish, said Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Joe Lopinto. He was booked in Jefferson on five counts of armed robbery and a count of illegal possession of a stolen firearm, jail records showed. The gun used in the St. Charles shooting, a .40-caliber Glock, was stolen, Lopinto said.
Lon Burns, who is representing Bryant, said his family has pushed back against the claims.
Burns said Friday afternoon he had not yet spoken to Bryant, but his family said he was elsewhere dropping off children and not in St. Charles Parish when the shooting happened.
In response to Champagne’s claims of video evidence showing Bryant in the area when the shooting happened, Burns said he was not yet aware of that. “If that’s what they have, we’d like to see it.”
A CRIME OF OPPORTUNITY
Champagne said the shooting began as a crime of opportunity.
The victim picked up “several thousand dollars” from a Capital One branch in Elmwood Wednesday morning, where Bryant happened to be at the same time.
“This obviously caught his (Bryant’s) attention. The victim left the parking lot in his vehicle, and Mr. Bryant was close behind, apparently with the idea of waiting for an opportunity to rob the victim of the cash.”
The victim, a courier whose job is to refill ATM’s with cash, was bound for Thibodaux but decided to stop for food in St. Charles Parish after crossing the Huey P. Long Bridge.
It was about 10 a.m. when he stopped at a RaceTrac gasoline station. But the store could only accept cash, so he decided to go to a Burger King across the street, Champagne said.
The victim later said he remembered seeing Bryant walk toward him at the RaceTrac before he left. “(That) kinda skewed his plan at that point.”
So Bryant trailed the victim to a Burger King drive-thru line and finally made his move as the victim began to drive away but stopped to check his order, Champagne said. “I’m sure that probably pleased the robber because it conveniently gave him his opportunity.”
Bryant then walked up to the victim, pulled out his gun and told him to stop.
The victim began to drive away and put up his arm in a “defensive posture,” leading him to be hit in the arm. “But for the grace of God and maybe a couple of inches of aim, we could’ve had a deceased victim lying in the parking lot of that Burger King ,” Champagne said.
Bryant ran back to his car through the yard of a building for Hahnville High School, leading to a brief lockdown of the campus since teachers and students were there to prepare for the start of school.
“This could’ve turned out much worse than it did,” Champagne said.
Champagne said the Toyota Corolla Bryant used belongs to Bryant’s girlfriend, who was with him during the shooting, but she is not a suspect in the case. Burns also questioned why she was questioned and released if she was with Bryant when he allegedly committed a crime.
SUSPECTED IN JP ROBBERIES
The Jefferson Parish crimes Bryant is suspected of committing happened during a week late last month, Lopinto said.
The first one was an armed robbery at a Waffle House on Behrman Highway in Terrytown about 11:50 a.m. July 20. Employees said two men held up the business.
Then, about 9:45 p.m. on July 27, deputies were called to a home in the 2900 block of North Monterey Court in unincorporated Gretna after armed men robbed a woman and took her car. About 20 minutes later, deputies responded to Copeland’s on South Clearview Parkway in Elmwood after two men robbed the restaurant.
A witness told investigators the men fled in a Nissan -- the same type of car that was stolen from the woman on the West Bank minutes earlier. The car was later found abandoned back on the West Bank.
Detectives eventually learned Bryant had been fired from the Waffle House and Copeland’s. They have not identified the second robber.
After being arrested Thursday, the JPSO said, Bryant admitted to having the stolen Nissan for a little while but said he got it from a friend and only drove it for a little while on the West Bank.
Bryant remained jailed Friday in Jefferson Parish.