Posted on February 24, 2013 at 8:01 AM
Sunday, Feb 24 at 8:01 AM
Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: email@example.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl
NEW ORLEANS - Police continued to pray for one of their own following a Saturday morning shooting.
Investigators say a three year veteran of the force was shot multiple times while responding to an armed robbery just after 7 a.m. Saturday.
Officer John Passaro was taken to University Hospital’s intensive care unit in serious condition.
The Dollar General on Poland and St. Claude Avenues remained closed Saturday after the robbery. Neighbors were in shock.
“I'm very very upset. I'm very dismayed. I'm very ashamed of the people who do this and live in our area or any area,” said a neighbor who would identify herself only as Anne. “We know the people that work [at the Dollar General]. They're friends. They’re like family at the holidays.”
Police released surveillance photos of the suspected gunman Saturday. They say he was ordering three employees to empty two safe at gunpoint in a manager’s office when Passaro arrived. When Passaro knocked on the door and announced himself as a police officer, investigators say the gunman turned on him and fired three shots, striking Passaro twice.
Billy Nguyen owns a convenience store across the street.
“I [feel] very sorry for the police. That's very sad for me too because I'm running [a] store right here,” said Billy Nguyen, who owns a convenience store across the street from the crime scene.
“That this person would pull out a gun and shoot an officer really speaks to the lack of respect for the police in general and it really is very frightening,” said Baty Landis, co-founder of Silence is Violence, an anti-violence campaign.
Police say Passaro was the first of several units responding to the initial armed robbery call.
Police first heard about the shooting from a Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputy who happened to be in the store at the time. He picked up Passaro's radio and alerted NOPD.
A perimeter was quickly set up around the area. SWAT team officers, the Canine Unit as well as State Troopers and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office helicopters searched the area for many hours for the suspect, but at this time, no arrests have been made.
Meanwhile, as police continue to search for the gunman, neighbors hope he's taken off the streets soon.
“In a way, we've all been assaulted,” said Anne. “This is a community. We say hello, we greet. We hug. This isn't us.”
Police describe the gunman as a light-complected African-American man in his early to mid-30s wearing blue jeans a gray hoodie, a hat and a blue and white bandanna.
Police consider him armed and dangerous. Crimestoppers is offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who helps solve this crime. If you have any information, call 504-822-1111.