NEW ORLEANS -- Police have linked the attempted hold-up of a legally blind man in Mid-City to a suspect already in custody for a string of brazen armed robberies.
Harry Palmore, 29, has been booked with the attempted armed robbery in the Jan. 24 hold-up of Matthew Hartman in the 3900 block of Iberville Street.
Hartman was using his cane to walk to work at 8 a.m., when police said Palmore jumped out of a stolen car and pointed a gun at Hartman’s chest, demanding his wallet.
In an exclusive video from a surveillance camera obtained by WWL-TV, the gunman can be seen racking the slide of his semi-automatic pistol in an attempt to fire at Hartman at point-blank range.
Even more stunning is what happened next: Hartman strikes the would-be robber three times with his cane, at one point hitting him on the wrist and almost causing him to drop his gun.
With that third whack of the cane, the robber can be seen retreating back into the car and driving off. Hartman said it was pure instinct that led him to resist the gunman by lashing out with his cane.
“I just said no and decided make a stand for myself,” Hartman said. “Split reaction, immediately.”
Watching the video of the attack, including a clear sequence of the gunman racking the slide of his semi-automatic pistol, made Hartman realize how close he came to getting shot at point blank range. His sister, Liz Hartman Lawson, is still shaken by what could have happened had the gun not misfired.
“Frightening,” she said. “I will start to cry. It's frightening. Absolutely frightening,” she said. “It's amazing that they were able to link this so quickly. We're thrilled, obviously.”
Days after the would-be robbery, a detective called Hartman and told him that his suspected robber had been caught after pulling two similar hold-ups.
Hartman shuddered. He realized he had seen Palmore on the news: He was the suspect captured during a dramatic arrest in which a second man, Arties Manning, was fatally shot by police.
The shooting and Palmore’s capture took place the evening after Hartman’s robbery scare.
In a supplemental police report, detectives link the stolen silver Nissan seen in the surveillance video of Hartman's case to Palmore. Detectives say Palmore, a multiple convicted felon, quickly confessed to Hartman’s robbery attempt and two other completed robberies days earlier.
“That's what the detective told me the other night on the phone, he confessed to everything,” Hartman said. “There is relief. I'm sleeping a lot better.”
In the police report, detectives wrote, “Under video and audio recording, he (Palmore) gave a statement implicating himself in all three armed robberies, as well as being in possession of the silver Nissan Altima with stolen plate, which had also been reported stolen.”
The officers wrote that they also recovered a purse stolen in one of the robberies, as well as a black Airsoft handgun.
If the case against Palmore holds up in court, he could go to jail for decades. In addition to armed robbery, which carries a maximum sentence of 99 years, he also is booked with aggravated battery and illegal possession of stolen things.
Palmore could even face the possibility of a life sentence if charged and convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Manning, a possibility under a rarely-used provision of the state’s murder statute.
Palmore’s attorney could not be reached for comment.
Even with the speedy arrest and seemingly strong case, Hartman said he's still not psychologically ready to return to walking to work.
“I'm much better today than three weeks ago. I'm starting to get my mojo back and, of course, the support of family and friends has been a great help,” he said. “But I don't think you really ever get over it. It's always in the back of your mind.”
Help comes primarily in the form of giving Hartman rides to work. He used to walk about five blocks to a funeral home where he is a funeral director, but he hasn’t ventured outside with his cane since the hold-up.
Matthew’s sister Liz does her share, as does Matthew's other sister. The three siblings are triplets, part of a large supportive family of six kids. Three of the siblings, including Hartman, are losing their sight due to a rare hereditary condition called choroideremia.
“We all just take turns and help him out when we can,” Lawson said.
“I would say I see that happening very soon, now that I know that this gentleman is not going to be out and about for a very long time,” Hartman said.
Palmore is being held at Orleans Parish Prison on a bail of $530,000. His next court date is a probable cause hearing set for Feb. 27th.
The police shooting of the second man, Manning, remains under investigation. While police cleared Manning of any involvement in the robberies, the department said he was shot after he raised a gun at detectives.