Feb 022011
 

Two Uptown New Orleans homes were broken into this week by men who tied up the women inside and then ransacked the home in cases that police say share so many similarities that they are almost certainly related.

In separate cases, police have also seen a rash of gun violence in the Leonidas area and captured a man they say stole a stack of computers from a Freret Street nonprofit, officers and investigators said Wednesday at the weekly meeting of the NOPD’s Uptown-based Second District.

Home invasions

The first home invasion was reported Sunday in the 4800 block of Tchoupitoulas, said Lt. Mike Montalbano, head of the Second District investigative unit. A woman was inside her home when a stranger broke in through the window, tied her up, covered her head, and began rummaging around her belongings, demanding, “Where’s the safe? Where’s the safe?” Montalbano said.

The woman insisted that she had no safe, and when he was unable to find one, he gave up, leaving without hurting her, Montalbano said. Investigators found no fingerprints in the home, and the woman was unable to describe the intruder, Montalbano said.

On Monday afternoon, two men appeared at the door of a home in the 2000 block of Jena (in the Freret area), asked the woman who answered for a resident who wasn’t there, and forced their way inside, Montalbano said. They told the woman “your fiance owes us money,” then tied her up, and one beat her, Montalbano said. They, too, were looking for a safe, but in this home found one and left with it when they could not get it open, Montalbano said.

The man the intruders sought on Jena Street is on probation for a cocaine-possession charge, Montalbano said, and police found a .22-caliber rifle in the house, which violates the condition of his early release. He has refused to speak to police thus far, Montalbano said, but investigators believe he knows more about the case.

The victim in the Tchoupitoulas case told police she didn’t know the man, but the burglars’ actions – tying the women up and searching for a safe – are so similar that a connection seems probable, Montalbano said. “We very rarely have any burglaries of this nature,” Montalbano said.

Violence in Leonidas

The Leonidas area had a homicide, a shooting and a nearby rape attempt over the last week, despite receiving heavier police patrols there than elsewhere Uptown.

In the homicide, which took place on the 8700 block of Hickory, police already assigned to the area were actually patrolling nearby when the shooting took place, said Capt. Darryl Albert, commander of the Second District. The officers quickly arrived on scene, but the victim, 24-year-old Dorian Meyers, had already died of several gunshot wounds to the torso, he said.

“Our officers were in area and heard the shots being fired,” Albert said. “But we know, when they want somebody, they’re going to get them.”

The shooter approached the victim from between two abandoned houses and fired on him with an assault rifle, Albert noted, warning his officers to be wary of such threats on the street.

“Be mindful before you approach,” Albert said. “An AK-47 was the weapon of choice in this case. There’s not a whole lot we can do if they open fire on a policeman.”

In a separate case last week, a man was also shot on the 8800 block of Green Street, said Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, the Second District’s lead persons-crime investigator. The victim was hit accidentally, Ferguson said, but the intended target was a known associate of one of the suspects in the Interstate 10 shooting death of Ralph Bias, also an Uptown resident.

Thus, the Green Street shooting was likely in retaliation, and neighborhood residents have been warning police that the cycle of violence is likely to continue, Albert noted.

A rape attempt was also reported in the 8600 block of Belfast, Ferguson said. In that case, a man tried to pull a woman into his red van as she walked from her house to her car late at night, but she fought him off, Ferguson said. She was not able to give police much description, however.

Finally, violence may have been thwarted in another case in Leonidas, Albert noted. A man who was moving to a new home realized at the end of the day that he was missing three of his guns – two rifles, an SKS and an AR-15, and a 9-mm handgun. He returned to his old house, and neighbors identified several young teenagers who’d been around the house during the move, Ferguson said. The man then found one of the kids’ mother, she tracked down her son, the police were called, the guns were recovered and the boy was arrested, Ferguson said – all thanks to the information from the community.

Freret burglary

Neighborhood cooperation also led to an arrest in last week’s burglary of the Freret Neighborhood Center, a community-building nonprofit that teaches job skills, tutors schoolchildren, assists homeowners and rallies residents for neighborhood causes.

Timothy Allen

Surveillance video on Freret Street recorded footage of a man walking toward the back of the neighborhood center’s building, then returning with a stack of computers in his arm. Someone in the neighborhood recognized the man’s image and tipped off investigators, who found and charged Timothy Allen, 37, with the burglary Friday evening, Montalbano said. The computers were not recovered, however, and Allen refused to talk to investigators, Montalbano said.

The theme of usefulness of private security cameras was one the police officials returned to several times in this week’s meeting, as several other recent burglaries have also been solved through the use of cameras operated by individuals. “It absolutely pays off,” Albert said.

Armed robbery in Touro

One other crime of violence was reported in the Second District over the last week, an armed robbery at the corner of Milan and Perrier in the Touro neighborhood. Two men who’d met at the bar there for drinks after work were leaving late at night when they were approached by a stranger with a black semiautomatic pistol, Ferguson said. The robber hit one of the men in the face with the gun, took their backpacks with their work clothes and other belongings and left, Ferguson said.

One of the men refused to cooperate with investigators at all, and the other was unable to provide a good description of the suspect, Ferguson said. Investigators are now exploring the possible connections to a recent armed robbery in the neighboring Sixth District.