Collaboration across state lines nets arrest in Bourbon St. case
The arrest of Trung T. Le on Friday afternoon in the Bourbon Street shooting was the culmination of a feverish day of police work, in which authorities from numerous agencies collaborated across jurisdictions and state lines to capture the 20-year-old suspected gunman.
Just minutes before Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas announced the arrest late Friday afternoon, SWAT team vehicles had begun to trickle into the cul-de-sac of an upper-class neighborhood outside Gulfport, Mississippi. There, they found Le inside a house and arrested him without incident.
“They came in quietly, and they left quietly,” said a next-door neighbor who declined to give his name. “They were there a pretty good while.”
A similar SWAT operation had already played out about 11 a.m. in the 100 block of River Oaks Drive in Belle Chasse, startling neighbors in a trailer park where authorities say Le lived but failing to net a suspect.
Neighbors celebrating Independence Day said they were stunned when a phalanx of heavily armed officers suddenly thundered down the street.
Cmdr. Eric Becnel, a spokesman for the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office, said SWAT team members tossed a “flash bang” device into the home where they expected to find Le, providing a diversion as they converged on the white, single-story trailer.
“It sounded like a bomb had gone off,” said 18-year-old Courtney Knight, who was taking turns careening down an inflatable water slide with friends when the raid happened.
“It’s Belle Chasse. When does this happen in Belle Chasse?” she said. “I can’t believe I live down the street from this guy.”
Becnel said New Orleans police had contacted officials in Plaquemines that morning.
“We received a call from NOPD on Friday saying they had identified Mr. Le as a suspect and they requested us to obtain a search warrant,” he said.
According to Becnel, the Sheriff’s Office’s SWAT team was joined by U.S. Marshals and NOPD detectives. He said information provided by NOPD made it clear Le could be armed and dangerous, hence the use of a flash-bang device.
“It creates a deafening sound,” he said. “It hurts your ears, and you’re going to go to the floor.”
Officials didn’t find Le inside, though his father was at the residence at the time of the raid, Becnel said.
A neighbor of the family, who declined to be named because she was afraid for her safety, said the Les were often bickering. The woman said she called the police a month ago after a fight between Le and his father became loud and hostile. The woman said the fight had started after Le’s father backed into his son’s car.
“It was terrible, all the yelling,” she said, but she added that the next day Le came over “and said he was sorry for all the noise and that it would never happen again.”
The woman said she was still in shock at the idea that her neighbor would be the suspect police were looking for.
“I still can’t believe it,” she said. “The day he came over here, he seemed nice.”
Becnel said deputies were no strangers to Le’s residence. He said officers had visited the address 13 times since 2009.
Some of those instances were medical calls and related to self-reported traffic accidents; others were domestic disturbances, according to Becnel.
He said in 2012 a woman called 911 and said she heard a gunshot and a scream coming from the residence. Deputies didn’t find anything to warrant an arrest at the house, Becnel said.
A domestic disturbance also was reported in January of this year, Becnel said.
Le also has been arrested on previous occasions, once on an outstanding warrant from Jefferson Parish at the same residence in September 2012, though it’s unclear on what charge.
Court records show Le has several arrests in Jefferson Parish for minor traffic violations and theft.
He also pleaded guilty in January 2013 to marijuana possession and charges that stemmed from a traffic stop in Terrytown in November 2011.
Garret Hawk, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in New Orleans, said the man living at the address in Gulfport where Le was found had not been detained. He said the man told investigators he was unaware Le was wanted.
A man who opened the door at the address Saturday but declined to give his name became agitated and combative when questioned about Le.
“He wasn’t staying here,” he said, without elaborating. “By the time I got home, he was already handcuffed and they were taking him away.”
He insisted he had nothing to do with the Bourbon Street shooting and said yesterday’s raid had left him feeling stigmatized within his neighborhood.
“All of my neighbors are looking at me like I’m a ... serial killer now,” he said.
Staff reporter Danny Monteverde contributed to this report.