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Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- Community activists and local residents along with supporters of a man charged with attempted murder faced off in the Marigny on Thursday night.

The crowd gathered near the home of 33-year-old Merritt Landry, who is accused of shooting 14-year-old Marshall Coulter.

'I think he should be set free because he was only defending himself,' said a Metairie man by the name of Phillip.

'We are against vigilantism,' said long-time community activist Mike Howells.

They joined dozens of others holding signs that spoke volumes: 'People are greater than property,' 'Black lives matter' and then, simply put, 'Free Merritt Landry.'

The diverse crowd rallied around two strangers connected by one tragically violent night. The NOPD says Landry claims he felt threatened when he spotted Coulter on his Marigny property around 2 a.m. on July 26. Police say the homeowner fired one round, striking the teen in the head. Coulter survived but remains hospitalized.

On Thursday night, 'Free Merritt' supporters wearing red t-shirts wanted their voices heard and charges dropped against Landry.

'You have to have the right to protect your property and your family. Again, it was 2 a.m. and we are supporting Mr. Landry,' said Maureen Noonan.

'I think that there is an agenda to try and stop people from defending themselves in this country right now and also confiscate our guns, and I do mean confiscate,' said Phillip from Metairie.

Those opinions weren't echoed by other community activists present at the rally. Many holding signs on behalf of Coulter, who police say had a burglary rap sheet and was unarmed the night of the Marigny shooting.

'We want to see that justice is served and that Merritt Landry is brought to trial and a jury and judge can decide what happened,' said Howells.

'Just saying that homeowners have rights too. But, their rights don't supersede anybody else's. Gladly in a free country you got to see two diverging opinions without bombing, without blood shed,' said Captain Black with Justice For Merritt Landry.

Landry faces an attempted second degree murder charge. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for next Thursday, August 29 at 3:00 p.m.

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