As Landrieu touts success of gang initiative, police look for perjury suspect in Briana Allen murder

Alexandra Perkins
Alexandra Perkins

A special grand jury convened for gang prosecutions in New Orleans has indicted a 21-year-old Algiers woman on perjury charges stemming from her testimony almost a year ago about the slayings of 5-year-old Briana Allen and 33-year-old Shawanaa Pierce last year in Central City.

Authorities were still searching late Tuesday for Alexandra Perkins, who was indicted last week. She is the second woman accused of perjury related to grand-jury testimony over the killings on May 29, 2012.

On that day, gunfire erupted near Simon Bolivar Avenue and Clio Street, cutting down Briana as she celebrated at a relative’s birthday party. Pierce was driving nearby, on her way to return a rental car in the Central Business District when she was fatally struck.

The case sparked community outrage and grabbed the attention of a new multi-agency unit set up through Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office to target the city’s criminal gangs. An investigation led to an indictment in May that named 15 people in a racketeering conspiracy allegedly involving 15 killings, including those of Briana and Pierce.

The 51-count indictment centers on the “110’ers,” an alleged St. Thomas-area gang formed by several young members of three separate groups from the 10th and 11th wards.

It was among seven state or federal racketeering indictments initiated this year against a total of 74 suspected New Orleans gang members, in a push that Landrieu, new U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite Jr. and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro touted at a news conference Tuesday at Cannizzaro’s office. Joined by Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, Sheriff Marlin Gusman and others, they issued a stern public warning about a new era for the city in corralling violent criminals.

Landrieu claimed early success for the administration’s “group violence reduction strategy” and the periodic “call-ins,” in which law enforcement officials and leaders of social service organizations confront gang members directly.

The fifth such event — in which a few dozen probationers and other suspected gang members sit captive while they learn how much authorities know about them — was held Tuesday at Criminal District Court.

The call-ins so far have reached 159 suspected members of 40 known gangs in the city, according to Landrieu’s office.

The mayor called such events a key piece of his “NOLA for Life” anti-violence initiative. He credited the initiative, and the multi-agency gang unit, with helping to bring the city’s murder figures to a four-decade low through November. According to the mayor’s office, the number of 2013 murders stood at 153 through Monday, 28 fewer than over the same period last year.

Landrieu called it “measurable progress, good progress,” but cautioned against complacency. “That is a very positive trend. That is all that it is,” he said.

Among the allegations against the 110’ers, the indictment claims that four of the young men killed James “Money” Wells on Aug. 26, 2011. Wells was found shot multiple times in the 3800 block of Annunciation Street. Last week, a state grand jury separately indicted three of those men in Wells’ killing.

Charlie “Mac” Brown, Kevin “Killa Kev” Calhoun and Demond “Lil D” Sandifer were indicted on one count each of second-degree murder and discharging a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Bond for each was set at $1.15 million. All three remained in jail Tuesday.

Sandifer was among four men charged in the broader indictment with the murders of Briana Allen and Shawanaa Pierce.

The new indictment suggests that prosecutors believe they have strengthened their case over Wells’ slaying and now can prosecute the men directly for murder, not merely as part of a broader conspiracy.

The same could be said for another indictment six weeks ago, in which the grand jury charged Joshua Pittman, Shedrick “Sweedy” Smith and Keith “Head” Battle in the Feb. 19, 2010, slaying of 20-year-old Comeese Mimitte. He was shot 13 times at Fourth and Chippewa streets. Pittman also is named in the racketeering indictment for Mimitte’s murder, along with three unindicted co-conspirators identified only as “S.C.,” “K.B.” and “S.S.,” the latter two presumably being Smith and Battle.

The new indictment against Perkins accuses her of two counts of perjury stemming from her testimony on Jan. 3 before a state grand jury.

According to the indictment, Perkins lied about never using or possessing a Nissan Altima or Maxima in 2012. It also says she lied by saying she was in possession of her cell phone on May 29, 2012, the day Briana and Pierce were killed.

Details of those allegations were not available. Christopher Bowman, spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office, declined to elaborate on the case against Perkins.

Her bond was set at $500,000.

Another woman, Ja’on “Sticks” Jones, 18, was indicted in November 2012, accused of perjuring herself before a state grand jury in response to questions about the birthday party shooting.

The racketeering indictment accused Jones of seven counts of perjury, as well as being an accessory after the fact to both murder and attempted murder.

Prosecutors alleged that Jones, who is thought to be Sandifer’s girlfriend, lied to authorities in a bid to protect Sandifer from arrest on June 19, 2012, and also conspired to delete the Facebook page of another alleged 110’er, Sam “Lil” Newman, to avoid detection.