Richard D. Barnes, 37, returned to investigators’ attention last week after he was found inside a home in the 900 block of Lowerline Street on Jan. 31 by one of the residents there, said Lt. Shaun Ferguson of the NOPD Second District. Barnes claimed to be looking for someone he said was a roommate there, but when the resident told him no such person lived there, Barnes left and the residents later realized some of their property was missing, Ferguson said.
A rash of burglaries then ensued in the university area, and investigators developed Barnes as a suspect in that case and two others and released his name and photo to the public and to university police, Ferguson said. On the evening of Fat Tuesday, Barnes was spotted by a resident of the university area, and both Tulane police and a NOPD task force closed in on him, Ferguson said. After a brief foot chase, Barnes was arrested, and admitted details to investigators that link him to seven recent burglaries in the area, Ferguson said.
Barnes seems to target the university area in part because of some students’ lax security habits, Ferguson said, such as allowing easy access to homes shared by multiple people. For that reason, Ferguson said he hopes students will be more diligent about keeping their homes secure with locked doors and ample lighting.
“He’s not kicking in doors or breaking in windows,” Ferguson said. “He’s taking advantage of the lifestyle that university students live with multiple roommates.”
Barnes has pleaded guilty to burglary charges in 2001, 2004 and 2009, and in the most recent case was sentenced to 10 years in prison. That conviction still stands, making it unclear how the state Department of Corrections interpreted the complex math of Louisiana’s sentencing laws to his case, but Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman called early releases such as his “frustrating” to law enforcement officials last week.
Ferguson said that he, too, planned to look into the circumstances that led Barnes to be back on the streets so soon after such a lengthy jail sentence. Even though some of Barnes’ charges involve breaking into homes while residents are in them, the fact that he isn’t using violence may have played into prison officials’ decision, Ferguson said.
“That’s what they do with these property crimes,” Ferguson said.