Trayvon Martin comparisons are already being drawn after a New Orleans homeowner shot a teenager he suspected of burglary. The facts in the shooting have barely been jotted down in a police report, and some members of the press have already tried and convicted Merritt Landry. The homeowner could very well be guilty, but “trial by media” tactics need to end before more unnecessary and needless racial tensions develop. The homeowner is white and the teen burglary suspect and his alleged cohort are black. Marshall Coulter, 14, remains in critical condition after being shot in the head by the 33-year-old New Orleans man.
Unlike the George Zimmerman case, eyeball witnesses and even surveillance video of the Marshall Coulter shooting exist. Even though witness statements and video footage exist, the facts in the shooting remain murky and racial controversy is already brewing. New Orleans homeowner Merrit Landy has been charged with second degree murder, but he has reportedly invoked Louisiana’s Castle laws as his defense.
Merritt Landry is employed by the City of New Orleans as a building inspector for the Historic District Landmarks Commission. He posted a $100,000 bond over the weekend and has since been placed on unpaid administrative leave.
Marshall Coulter was shot while standing near Merritt Landry’s car inside a gated area outside of Landry’s home. Landry told NOPD investigators that his barking dog alerted him to someone possibly being in his yard. When the New Orleans homeowner went outside and ultimately approached Coulter, he maintains the teenager made a “thwarted move,” which appeared to Landry to indicate he was reaching for something. The arrest warrant also stated that Landry shot Coulter from about 30 feet away, fearing that the young man was reaching for a weapon.
NOPD Detective Nicholas Williams spoke with an individual claiming to have witnessed the shooting who offered a different account of the incident. Marshall Coulter allegedly had a friend standing outside of the gate at the time of the shooting; it is unclear if the witness and the friend are one in the same. Regardless, Detective Williams stated that Coulter did not have a gun and was not posing imminent threat to Merritt Landry.
A statement released by Landry’s attorneys Miles Swanson and Michael Kennedy reads:
“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.”
David Coulter, the shooting victim’s brother, told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Marshall did have a history of theft. During the interview David had this to say about his sibling:
“He would steal — he was a professional thief, sure. But he would never pick up a gun, not in a million years. He was too scared to aim a gun at the grass, let alone aim it at a person. No way. Before he’ll ever pick up a gun, he’ll be your friend first. He’s still a little boy. Who pulls a trigger on a 14-year-old? What if it was your little brother or sister? How would you feel?”
Of course, all of Marshall Coulter’s seven siblings and the rest of his family are heartbroken about the shooting and such a response is only natural. But the worried brother’s comments about Marshall still being a little boy and wondering who would shoot a young teenager illustrate a growing problem in America. Violent crimes are being committed by younger and younger individuals. It is unlikely that Merritt Landry could detect the possible burglar’s age from 30 feet away at nearly 2 am.
The night of the New Orleans shooting, Marshall Coulter allegedly left his home around 10 pm to take out the trash, but never returned. The mother of his brother’s baby told local news media that Marshall had had issues with curfew violations and “small-time burglaries” in the past, but was a good kid.
Charles Hazouri, a neighbor of Landry’s, whose surveillance camera reportedly captured the incident, showed what some have deemed two teenagers casing houses in the neighborhood. As a parent, I do wonder why two young teens were out riding their bicycles at 1:45 am. No matter how well we watch them, teenagers can sneak out of the house. I am not going to make a values judgment about Marshall Coulter’s parents without all of the facts, but do feel that an overall lack of adult supervision of children of all ages is a growing problem in our modern society.
Hazouri’s surveillance cameras reportedly show two black teenagers riding BMX bicycles up and down Dauphine and Mandeville Streets just prior to 2 am. The adjacent New Orleans homeowner had this to say about the footage on his surveillance tape:
“[The video] shows the two teens talking in the middle of Mandeville Street outside of Landry’s house. The video then shows the teen in the light-colored T-shirt walk his bike across Mandeville toward Landry’s house. Then, the teen walks back out to the middle of the road before climbing over Landry’s fence. The other teen in the tank top stayed on the other side of Mandeville Street.”
The clothing worn by one of the teenagers allegedly matches the garments Marshall Coulter was wearing at the time of the shooting. A different Landry neighbor stated that a teenager matching the same description was spotted in the neighborhood “looking at different houses” around 8 pm the same evening.
The unnamed neighbor had this to say about the events which unfolded earlier the night of the Coulter shooting:
“I thought about calling the cops, but the last thing I want to do is racially profile a little kid who’s just biking.”
Perhaps if the neighbor had not been worried about political correctness and the possible home casing had been reported to NOPD, the shooting could have been prevented.
Marshall Coulter is reportedly making some medical progress in the hospital. Relatives of the New Orleans teenager stated that he could move the right side of his body, but had not gained control over his left side. If the young man is able to recover from the gunshot wound to the head, he will be able to tell his side of the shooting story to NOPD detectives. Friends of Coulter, who refer to him by his nickname “Uncle Popeye,” contend that he is a good kid who just got mixed up with the wrong people.