Three years ago, a 2-year-old boy peeked out the window of his grandmother’s car near a Central City second-line, and a stray bullet smashed into his tiny face. The death of Jeremy Galmon, the picture of innocence caught in the crossfire of New Orleans’ relentless gun violence, unleashed a citywide fury that provoked people who might normally keep quiet into telling the police what they’d seen: two men opening fire at a moving car.
A jury was seated on Tuesday to decide whether the two cousins arrested days after the shooting are indeed the men who gunned the baby down three years ago.
Cousins Bernell “Benny” Pollard, 24, and Jamiron Pollard, 31, are each charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. They each face an automatic lifetime in prison if the jury finds them guilty as charged.
The boy and his family parked at First and Dryades streets on a Sunday afternoon, Sept. 26, 2010. He stayed in the car with his grandmother and two other children, while his mother went to the Young Men Olympian Jr. Benevolent Association second-line nearby, according to accounts in The Times-Picayune.
Jeremy Galmon popped his head up to peek out of the back window.
A silver Chevrolet Impala was heading toward them, down First Street, with two men inside. According to court records, witnesses told police that two men on the street pulled out pistols and opened fire on the car as it passed.
The bullets missed the men in the Impala.
But one hit the boy in the face.
The gunmen jumped into a car and sped away, as chaos erupted all around the child.
He died an hour later at the hospital.
The entire city convulsed in grief. Rallies were held, with pleas to bring the boy’s killers to justice, then find a way to stop the city’s merciless tide of violence.
The mayor and police chief begged witnesses to come forward. Tips poured in.
Within days, police arrested Jamiron Pollard at a home in New Orleans East. They found his cousin, Bernell Pollard, at an Algiers apartment two days later.
Authorities have not specified what might have prompted the shooting, or how they connected the Pollards to it.
Three others, another cousin, Bruce Pollard, along with Joshua Franklin and Derielle Bernard, were arrested on accusations that they helped the men hide out after the shooting.
All three are still awaiting trial as accessories.
The Pollard cousins, meanwhile, where charged again in October 2012, in a sprawling indictment that alleged an unspecified connection between Galmon’s killing and another shooting three years earlier.
That crime took place on Christmas Day 2007, when gunmen sprayed bullets outside a house on Josephine Street in Central City, about nine blocks away from the corner where Galmon was killed.
Two teenagers, 17-year-old James Jones and 18-year-old Wendell Millro, were shot dead. Four other teens were injured. Shortly after that shooting, police issued a warrant for a serial armed robber named Eldrin George, accusing him of the killings, according to The Times-Picayune.
It was featured on America’s Most Wanted, and he was caught hiding out in Georgia. The murder charge was eventually dropped, he pleaded guilty to the robberies and is now serving 25 years in prison.
Five years passed.
In October 2012, a grand jury indicted the Pollard cousins and a third man in that shooting.
Both of the Pollards and 27-year-old Akeem Mills are charged separately with two counts of second-degree murder and four counts of attempted second-degree murder in that case.
So if the Pollards are acquitted this week in Galmon’s death, they will face another murder trial in October that could also send them to prison for life.
All day Tuesday, prosecutors and defense attorneys quizzed prospective jurors: about their law enforcement connections, their television habits, the bumper stickers on their cars.
Assistant district attorneys Brittany Reed and Francesca Bridges hinted that the case would rely largely on the testimony of those witnesses who came forward in the days after the Galmon’s killing. They told jurors that high-tech forensic science on TV shows like CSI is fantasy, and that real-life murder cases in New Orleans are more often built on the word of witnesses.
A jury of 14, including two alternates, was seated Tuesday afternoon, composed of five women and nine men.
Opening statements from the state, then from defense attorneys Ammon Miller and Arthur Harris, will begin Wednesday morning.
The boy’s family and supporters are expected to crowd into the courtroom.
Across town, at the intersection of Dryades and First streets, a giant white cross still stands, some four times taller than the boy ever grew.
It is covered in tiny handprints, with a stuffed frog at its base.
Written across the cross is a quote from Isaiah: “... And a child shall lead them.”