NEW ORLEANS - A 14-year-old was shot in the head by a man who spotted the teen near his car early Friday morning, according to the New Orleans Police Department. The man who shot the boy is facing an attempted second-degree murder charge, according to police.
Merritt Landry, 33, (pictured to the right) fired one shot at the teen when he saw him in his front yard on Mandeville Street in the Marigny around 2 a.m., according to the NOPD. Crime lab technicians located a single spent casing on the scene.
The victim was transported to the hospital and was in critical condition, authorities said earlier, but New Orleans police have not released an updated status of the condition of the 14-year-old.
After a thorough review of crime scene evidence and the evaluation of multiple interviews, Landry was initially booked with attempted second-degree murder, police said.
The charge was later changed from attempted second-degree murder to second-degree murder on the sheriff's office website. New Orleans police, however, said Landry is still being booked on attempted second-degree murder.
A neighbor with surveillance cameras said the teen jumped the homeowner's fence before being shot in the head.
Charles Hazouri, a neighbor and friend of the Landry who says his surveillance video shows the teen jumping the fence, said Landry felt threatened.
"Merrit told his family that he had said, 'Freeze,' and it looked like the guy turned at him -- like he had his hand on his hip. But who knows?" Hazouri said.
Police haven't disclosed if the teen was armed or if he exchanged any words with Landry before the shooting.
Law experts say trespassing under Louisiana code does not justify excessive force.
"If somebody is breaking into your car, the Louisiana Criminal Code allows you to use force -- but only force that is reasonable and necessary to prevent the trespass," Dane Ciolino, Loyola University law professor, said. "Deadly force is not authorized or justified under those circumstances."
"This incident is terrible, and Mr. Landry feels terrible about how things have occurred. Nevertheless, we remain convinced our client has done nothing wrong, and we are sure -- as facts come to light -- it'll become clear that Mr. Landry will be fully exonerated of any wrongdoing," said Merritt Landry's attorney Michael Kennedy.
Merritt's bond was set at $100,000, according to the sheriff's office website. He was later released after posting his bond.
Landry is a building inspector for the Historic District Landmarks Commission for the City of New Orleans.
According to a spokeman from the Mayor's Office, Landry has been placed on emergency suspension, without pay, pending the outcome of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu released a statement regarding the shooting: “Although the incident is still under investigation, it is clear that this was a tragedy. The New Orleans Police Department will continue to thoroughly investigate this matter to ensure that all of the facts are brought to light.”