A homeless woman was beaten and robbed of her backpack as she walked through Central City, a bicyclist was beaten by a homeless man underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass and New Orleans police are investigating a rash of recent shootings committed against homeless people around the Central Business District, in a trio of recent crimes that demonstrate the violence that can be a part of life on the streets.
On Tuesday afternoon, a woman left the Taco Bell on South Claiborne Avenue and was walking to the park at Washington and LaSalle around 1:25 p.m. when she was attacked from behind, NOPD Sgt. David Barnes said at the Sixth District’s weekly meeting of ranking officers. The man who struck her knocked her to the ground and then kept beating her until the strap on her backpack broke, then he grabbed it and ran off, Barnes said.
The woman tried to chase him, but he disappeared behind a house in the 2200 block of South Robertson Street, Barnes said. Investigators were found video that showed her walking with the yellow-and-black backpack just before the robbery, and a witness saw her running after her attacker, though no video has been found of him, Barnes said.
“She very obviously had a battery committed upon her,” Barnes said.
The man who attacked her is described as a tall, “lanky” black man in his 30s, clean-shaven with a bald head, wearing no shirt and khaki pants. The woman had an out-of-state ID and told police she lives near the library downtown, Barnes said.
In a separate incident, a man riding a bicycle on Calliope Street last week was attacked by a homeless man and seriously injured, Barnes said. The cyclist was pedaling near Loyola Avenue around 3:30 p.m. July 24, when a man came out of a gray-and-orange tent and got into an argument with him, Barnes said, then began beating him. Shortly before losing consciousness, the bicyclist felt someone going through his pockets, Barnes said.
The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment of “serious head trauma,” Barnes said, and has since returned to his family in Georgia to recover. Investigators are working on a photographic lineup to present to him in hopes of identifying his attacker, Barnes said.
Sixth District police are also investigating whether a group of people arrested on charges of shooting homeless people in the Central Business District with a pellet gun are responsible for an attack on a homeless man Tuesday under the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass.
Around 2 a.m., a car pulled up and someone threw a rock at a homeless man, Barnes said. The homeless man picked up the rock to throw it back, and the people in the car showed a gun, Barnes said.
The following morning, a 37-year-old homeless man was sleeping under the bridge at Gravier and South Claiborne in the Central Business District when he was awakened by being shot by a pellet gun in his chest and face, according to a NOPD report. The gunshots were being fired from a red Chevrolet Camaro, and State Police troopers stopped it shortly afterward at Decatur and Barracks, the report states.
Inside the car, police found two pellet guns and a .40-caliber Glock handgun with a 22-round magazine, the report states. Casey Smith, 25, admitted to being the shooter, and he and the other four people in the car were all charged with battery, the report states.
Three more homeless people in their 50s and 60s subsequently showed up at area hospitals with pellet-gun injuries, all naming the same car, the report states.