NEW ORLEANS — Akein Scott, an accused gangster now the target of a sprawling manhunt, posted bond and was released from Orleans Parish Prison less than two weeks before he allegedly injured 19 people in a shooting during a Mother’s Day parade in the 7th Ward.
As the search for him entered its second day Tuesday, city officials began trading barbs over how Scott ended up back on the streets in time for Sunday’s vicious shooting. Four people remain hospitalized, three in critical condition and one in stable condition.
Two months earlier, on March 5, Scott was caught at a 7th Ward corner store, allegedly carrying a handgun with an extended clip and a bag of heroin.
Scott, 19, was originally held on a $35,000 bond, but released April 30 on a $15,000 one.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Tuesday called that “a mistake.”
The mayor months ago asked Orleans Parish judges to set bonds of at least $30,000 for those held on gun crimes.
“He may have gotten out on bond anyway, but ... when people are caught with illegal weapons, especially in possession of drugs, they must be handled in the most serious way as potential threats to the community,” Landrieu said Tuesday.
In March, two police officers on patrol in the 7th Ward spotted Scott sitting outside a corner store just before 10 a.m., according to court records.
Officers followed Scott into the crowded store and found a black handgun tucked into his waistband. The gun, it turned out, had been stolen from St. Charles Parish.
Scott tried to flee as police placed handcuffs on him. When they arrived at the Central Booking office, officers found a plastic bag containing an off-white substance, which they suspected was heroin, stashed under the backseat of the police cruiser. Scott had tried to hide the substance there, the officers suspected.
Scott was booked on six counts: possession of an illegally concealed weapon; possession of a stolen firearm; possession of heroin; resisting arrest; possession of contraband; and, the most serious charge, possession of a gun while in possession of a controlled dangerous substance, a high-end gun felony punishable by five to 15 years in prison.
Scott did not have a lengthy criminal history — he had been arrested twice before. In early 2012, he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor simple battery charge.
Around the same time, Scott was in a car stopped by the Louisiana State Police in February 2012. Troopers discovered a gun, stolen three years earlier from Slidell, inside the car. Scott, who at the time was a senior at Miller-McCoy Academy, was booked with illegal possession of a stolen firearm.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office in April 2012 decided a conviction would be difficult and declined to pursue that charge.
Cannizzaro’s spokesman Chris Bowman said Tuesday that a conviction requires proving that the defendant knew, or should have known, that the gun was stolen. It is a charge, he said, more commonly applied to stolen goods with obvious signs of theft: a gun with an obliterated serial number or a car with a defeated ignition lock.
After Scott was arrested at the corner store in March, Orleans Parish Magistrate Commissioner Harry Cantrell set a total bond at $35,000, and Scott remained in jail. His bond was split between four of the six counts: $15,000 on the concealed weapon charge, $10,000 on the stolen firearm count, $5,000 for the heroin and $5,000 for resisting arrest.
Cantrell found no probable cause for the other two charges: the felony guns and drugs and contraband charges.
But when Cannizzaro charged Scott on April 22, he pursued only the most serious charge — possession of a firearm while in possession of controlled dangerous substances. The other five counts were refused.
When police officers arrest a suspect, they often pile on as many charges as possible, sometimes repetitive of each other, Bowman said Tuesday to explain why the other five counts were dismissed. The district attorney commonly picks only one or two of the most serious charges.
Typically, since Cantrell had not set a bond on the guns and drugs charge, a new bond would have been set. But for Scott, the $15,000 bond previously set for the misdemeanor concealed weapons charge was transferred by the clerk’s office as the bond for the felony, according to court records. Scott posted the bond through a bail bondsman and was released April 30. He was scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.
Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas on Tuesday said investigators now believe that Scott is a member of a street gang.
While Scott has a MySpace page that lists his name as “Hard Head” Akein — perhaps a reference to the 7th Ward Hard Heads gang — Serpas said it was not yet clear if Scott was part of that gang. Some people shuttle among groups, Serpas said, and investigators still had not pinned down Scott’s gang affiliation.
Serpas said Monday night that SWAT officers and U.S. Marshals Service searched a home in the 3600 block of South Roman Street to look for Scott and evidence in the case.
Police also searched two blocks of Frenchmen Street near the scene of Sunday’s shooting since Scott “frequented that area for a lot of different reasons,” Serpas said.
A handful of women who on Tuesday morning sat on the steps outside of the South Roman Street home refused to speak to a reporter.
“Don’t come in front of this door,” one of the women said as she and the others stood up and walked inside. “We don’t want to talk to anybody.”
Scott’s photograph and videos of Sunday’s shooting have made national news, and Crimestoppers is offering a $10,000 bounty for information.
Cannizzaro said Tuesday that Scott could face charges of aggravated battery, attempted second-degree murder or attempted first-degree murder.
“This is an individual who did a very callous, cruel and brutal act at a time when people are trying to enjoy and celebrate each other,” Cannizzaro said.
“There should be no sympathy for him.”