NEW ORLEANS -- Old-fashioned police work and an anonymous tip led officers to arrest the final two suspects in the violent mugging of two men in the French Quarter during the weekend that left one victim fighting for his life.
“We made a promise to you,” Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said Wednesday in announcing the apprehensions, referring to an earlier vow to identify and capture all four men seen in a widely-circulated video of the attack. “We kept our promise.”
Police Commander Nick Gernon, who oversees the Quarter, said plainclothes officers spotted 20-year-old Rashaad Piper hanging out late Tuesday night in the 800 block of Conti Street -- about five blocks away from the 200 block of Bienville Street where two Boston-area men in town as part of a religious convention were jumped and robbed.
A Crimestoppers tip, meanwhile, led a warrant squad to 18-year-old Nicholas Pogozelski at the Walmart on Tchoupitoulas Street in the Lower Garden District a short time later, Gernon said.
Gernon credited “the hard work of the detectives here in conjunction with our (warrant) unit and a lot of help from the public coming forward to give us the information we really needed to be able to put this case to bed.”
Piper and Pogozelski now join 21-year-old DeJuan Paul and 18-year-old Joshua Simmons in jail as they await a bond hearing for their alleged actions. Each man was booked on a count of second-degree robbery.
Paul turned himself in to police Monday with his pastor, who helped him surrender. Simmons’ warrant indicates he told someone at Covenant House about his involvement before he, too, surrendered to police and identified his alleged accomplices.
As Harrison and Gernon announced the arrests Wednesday, Piper sat in a courtroom across town and told a judge he was homeless, though arrest papers list his address as that of Covenant House. A source previously told WWL-TV three of the four suspects live at the shelter.
Orleans Parish Criminal Court Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell set the bond hearing for all four suspects on Friday morning but asked all attorneys in the case to meet Thursday for scheduling purposes.
One of Paul’s uncles told The New Orleans Advocate his nephew has a history of mental illness. Christian Bonin, an attorney for the suspect said in court he was working to gather medical records to show there is “a better place for his client to await” future proceedings than New Orleans’ jail.
Bonin stopped short of describing what that facility may be.
The attack happened in Wayne Ducote's doorstep, leading the local businessman to write an op-ed for The New Orleans Advocate, blaming the NOPD consent decree for putting officers in "handcuffs."
"... (T)he NOPD consent decree, which privileges protocol over policing, binding our officers while criminals run free," he wrote. "And make no mistake: in a city where violent crime is on the rise, an aggressive and proactive police force — one that is free to do its job — is an absolute necessity."
In an interview with WWL-TV, Ducote said the consent decree is more concerned with the rights of criminals than victims.
"Right now police are afraid to get out of their car because they're either going to get sued, arrested or lose their job," he said. "If we don't control this issue we're not going to have to worry about the convention center or the hotel business, because we won't have any."
New Orleans Advocate reporter Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed to this report.