James Johnson, 21, is charged with armed robbery, aggravated rape, aggravated burglary and false imprisonment, according to jail records.
Officers were already out in force in the east-Carrollton neighborhood Wednesday evening after the recent rash of home invasions when they received a burglary-in-progress call around 6:30 p.m., said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas in a news conference Thursday afternoon at City Hall. Dispatchers were told the caller had heard a woman scream for help, and then seen a man force his way into a woman’s house with a gun, police said.
Two detectives — John Castelin and William Mullaly — and two patrol officers — Wynn Williams and Walter Fuquay — arrived right away, were directed to a home on Hickory near Lowerline and quickly received keys to it from a roommate who met them there, police said. As they entered, they heard voices from the bedroom.
“They went in that home and actually found a woman who desperately needed our assistance and the perpetrator of a crime,” Serpas said.
Investigators determined that Johnson had forced the woman into the bedroom and assaulted her sexually, then demanded money from her and threatened to kill her, police said.
In addition to the crimes he was “caught in the act” of Wednesday evening, Johnson subsequently confessed to his involvement in an attack on three women in a Panola Street home last Friday. In that case, two women were tied up and robbed by three armed intruders (while a third resident slept upstairs), and Serpas said detectives are actively pursuing the identities of other perpetrators in that case.
“Our detectives are working right now as we speak to see what other individuals are involved in those crimes,” said NOPD Second District Commander Paul Noel.
Johnson has been arrested on armed-robbery charges three times in the past, and is now charged with violating his parole on a previous attempted armed-robbery conviction, police said. Serpas was vocal in his frustration that the man was back on the street committing another crime.
“He’s been in court, he’s been found guilty of a crime, he made an agreement to be a good man in our community, and yet he couldn’t,” Serpas said. “He’s now been linked to and admitted to sexually assaulting women.”
Aggravated rape carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Serpas said he hopes that this time, Johnson will be made to stay in jail so that he can no longer hurt the people of New Orleans.
“Time after time after time, in this city in particular, these people — who promise to be good in lieu of going to jail — lie,” Serpas said. “They go back into this community and they attack people and they hurt people, and our officers have to go chase them down again and again and again.”
The Panola and Hickory street attacks seem to be separate from Tuesday’s home-invasion on Adams Street, Noel said. Detectives are still investigating that case as well, but at the present it does not appear to be connected to Johnson, he said.
In the meantime, Noel urged residents to be “vigilant” and watch out for their neighbors.
“We could not have made this arrest yesterday without the help of a person who was vigilant and notified us,” Noel said.
In particular, Noel urged residents to lock their homes and vehicles. A number of recent attacks and other burglaries have taken places at homes where the front door was unlocked.
“Please help us protect you by locking and securing your property,” Noel said.
NOPD Ronal Serpas and Second District Commander Paul Noel announced the arrest in a news conference at City Hall on Thursday afternoon. See above for full video of their remarks.