NOPD queries 'person of interest' in mass shooting

PERSON OF INTEREST SOUGHT BY NOPD TURNS HIMSELF IN

Two images of Justin Odom provided by the NOPD.
Two images of Justin Odom provided by the NOPD.

New Orleans homicide detectives on Wednesday joined the investigation into Sunday’s mass shooting on Bourbon Street after one victim died from her wounds.

Meanwhile, investigators interviewed the “person of interest” they were seeking who was recorded darting through the French Quarter after the gunbattle.

Brittany Thomas, 21, of Hammond, was pronounced dead at 2:44 p.m. Wednesday at Interim LSU Hospital, said John Gagliano, the coroner’s chief investigator.

Thomas was among 10 people hit by bullets when two gunmen who remain at large opened fire on each other about 2:45 a.m. Sunday at Bourbon and Orleans streets.

Thomas had been in critical condition since the shooting.

Three victims remain hospitalized at Interim LSU Hospital. They all were in stable condition Wednesday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Police have not yet identified the gunmen but said they were looking for Justin Odom, 20, as a person of interest in the case. He was not named a suspect.

City Hall spokesman Tyler Gamble said Wednesday night that Odom turned himself into Gretna police in the afternoon and NOPD homicide detectives interviewed him with his attorney present.

“Following the interview, Odom was arrested and booked on unrelated warrants in Jefferson Parish — outstanding traffic attachments and a shoplifting warrant,” Gamble said. He did not say whether Odom provided any information about Sunday’s shooting.

Police said earlier they were looking for another white man with whom Odom associates and who is known as either Josh or Joe.

Court records show that Odom pleaded guilty in March to a pair of marijuana possession counts stemming from arrests this year and last year in Jefferson Parish. He received credit for time served, according to court records.

A police report on his Jan. 27 arrest lists a Marrero address for Odom. It says he was a passenger in a vehicle stopped for traffic violations on Belle Chasse Highway and 25th Street in Gretna when the officer detected “an overwhelming odor of marijuana.”

A search found three pieces of what appeared to be marijuana in the glove box, individually wrapped in baggies. At the jail, a Sheriff’s Office deputy found less than two grams of marijuana in Odom’s pants pocket, the report said.

He was booked on counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of contraband in a correctional facility.

According to a police report, an officer recovered a Rossi .38 caliber revolver in the stop.

Odom also pleaded guilty to another marijuana possession count based on an Oct. 2 arrest, also while a passenger in a vehicle, this time in the 4100 block of the West Bank Expressway in Marrero.

Odom does not appear to have a criminal history in Orleans Parish, according to online court records.

David Minsky, a freelance journalist who also tends bar on Bourbon Street, said Wednesday that a photo of Odom bears a striking resemblance to the fair-skinned man he saw fly past him at Bourbon and St. Peter streets seconds after the gunfire erupted. The man was followed close behind by a New Orleans police officer, he said.

Minsky said he was sitting at the bar stool nearest the door at Boondock Saint on St. Peter Street when he heard gunfire, stepped outside and strode toward Bourbon.

“I saw two guys run around the corner. I’m not sure what the first guy looked like. The second guy, he looked like the guy they have as a person of interest. He looked just like him: black hair, the facial hair and a backpack,” Minsky said.

The man with the backpack “was absolutely white-complexioned, for sure,” said Minsky, adding that he never saw a gun.

“He had the backpack slung over his shoulder. Right behind him was an NOPD cop. The cop was, like, 10 to 15 feet behind him. He was on his tail, man. They were booking it fast,” he added.

He said the cop chased the man toward Jackson Square. Minsky said he then turned and followed a trail of blood, thinking it might have been from one of the shooters. It wasn’t.

“I turned around and walked back toward where I came from. That’s when I saw the woman clutching her face,” he said.

He had apparently spotted Amy Matthews, a visitor from Australia who had been shot in the face, near Dante Pizza on St. Peter.

Minsky said police never interviewed him about what he saw, though he tweeted out photos from the scene within minutes.

Although police wanted to speak with Odom about the shooting, he was not identified as a suspect in the case.

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has said detectives have worked new leads since the shooting and that information is developing “at a good flow.”

Serpas said Sunday that the shooting stemmed from an argument between two men about “something stupid.”

“Now more than ever we need the community to come forward with information to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

Police have declined to say how many shots were fired Sunday morning, but a police report released Wednesday through a public-records request said one witness reported hearing eight or nine shots and then saw “pedestrians running in every direction.”

Among those trying to flee the scene was Matthews, the 21-year-old woman from Australia.

She told The West Australian newspaper that she and a friend had flown to New York City, made their way to Nashville and then drove to town to celebrate graduating from college.

She did not respond to messages Wednesday from The New Orleans Advocate.

Matthews and her friend were bar-hopping when the shooting happened, she told The West Australian.

A bullet tore through her right cheek and pierced her lip on the way out, causing damage to her gums, teeth and palate.

“I have about 10 teeth left,” she told the newspaper. “It shattered the top of my palate in four places and ripped my tongue in several places.

“Because the bullet was so hot, it just ripped through my teeth and burned a lot of my gums,” Matthews said. “I can replace my teeth and my mouth will heal, but if it had been a few centimeters toward my brain or my jugular, who knows?”

Coincidentally, Matthews told the newspaper, she wrote a thesis at the University of Western Australia about gun use in the United States.

“It just shows you how embedded the whole gun culture is in the U.S.,” she said.