May 29: 2600 Dreux Street
NEW ORLEANS - Detectives and an ATF agent spent several hours looking for spent gun shells in the 2600 block of Dreux Avenue near Franklin Avenue in the Gentilly neighborhood Thursday.
It is where police say an off-duty Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO) police officer shot and killed an alleged armed robbery suspect around 2 a.m. Thursday. Police say the officer was changing a tire for three women when a car pulled up, a gunman got out and demanded a woman's purse. That's when the officer identified himself as a law enforcement officer, drew his firearm and exchanged gunfire with the suspect.
Neighbors say the women are fortunate the officer was there to interrupt the robbery.
"It was by the grace of God that he was there for her, God bless him," said Gentilly neighbor Warren Chambers. "I'm sorry for the young man who lost his life, but if you're not doing wrong, you're all right."
"Maybe, if the policeman wasn't there, it would have just been a robbery, like most of the time on the street without gunplay," said Gentilly restaurant owner Stephen Herbert. "Sounds like the policeman was justified."
The suspect was taken to the hospital where he later died from several gunshot wounds. No one else was injured in the shooting. The suspect was identified as Jose Valerio, 17, who was out on bond for a pair of prior armed robbery arrests. Court records also indicate Valerio had a prior arrest for simple robbery.
The New Orleans Advocate reported that prosecutors had sought to have a $50,000 bond for two counts of armed robbery revoked after a February arrest on simple robbery. Court documents showed that Judge Laurie White declined to revoke the bond, but instead raised the bond on simple robbery from $15,000 to $40,000.
The Advocate reported that Valerio posted the bond and was released.
"I set an appropriate bond according to the facts that I was presented, and based on his youth, his non-existent crime history, his high school attendance and regular drug screening and family," White told the Advocate.
"I just thought it was unnecessary and it's a shame that you can't be safe in your own neighborhood," said Chambers. "You shouldn't have to be looking over your shoulder every time you go somewhere."
"It is targeted violence," said Herbert. "This is a real safe neighborhood as long as you're not selling or buying drugs you're in good shape."
SUNO would not identify the campus officer involved in the shooting, but released this statement. "As released by the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) confirms that the officer involved in the Thursday, May 29 incident on Dreux Street is a campus police officer. SUNO is fully cooperating with NOPD in this matter, which is still under investigation."
The district attorney's office issued the following statement:
"Any homicide on the streets of New Orleans, whether or not it is justified, is a tragedy. What makes this a horrific tragedy is that it could have easily been prevented but for the systemic failure of one component of our criminal justice system. Jose Valerio was given a woefully inadequate $50,000 bond for two counts of armed robbery. He continually violated the conditions of that bond by testing positive for narcotics for which there was no consequence. Finally, he committed a third robbery, but the court denied the motion by the District Attorney’s office to revoke his bond in the armed robbery case."