GUNS SAVE LIVES: Eastern New Orleans family is badly shaken after home invasion, shootout
A shootout with military-style guns just feet from her sleeping 8-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son was the last thing a New Orleans dentist expected when she woke from a restless sleep Wednesday about 3:30 a.m. in her eastern New Orleans home. As the 34-year-old woman checked on her husband, who was up late working on his computer, the couple was startled to hear their home alarm system suddenly beep: A window in their garage gym had been opened.
Surveillance video shows robbers escapingThree robbers can be seen escaping though this home’s window after they exchanged gunfire with the homeowner.Watch video
Her husband, also a dentist, pulled up his computer surveillance footage from the family’s security cameras surrounding their property in the 5600 block of St. Helena Place. The couple watched in horror as three masked men dressed in black worked to pry open their window. One of the men held a 3-foot-long assault rifle. A fourth man stood guard behind the house, outside the back door.
The husband ran for his guns. “Go call the cops,” he told his wife, trembling. She dialed 9-1-1. But it would be a long 15 minutes before police arrived, she said later.
“We were so scared, we were shaking,” said the wife. Fearing another attack, she and her husband, 38, spoke with The Times-Picayune on condition of anonymity.
The robbers popped off the window within about five minutes. Once inside the garage, one of them opened the door leading to the kitchen.
Enlarge Naomi Martin, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune A 34-year-old dentist shows some of the bullet holes left throughout her home in eastern New Orleans following a home invasion early Wednesday morning.After home invasion, spray of bullet holes remains throughout dentists’ home gallery (8 photos)
Crouching behind a living room couch, the husband fired several shots at the robbers. The robbers returned fire with an automatic weapon and another gun. Bullets flew through the air, lodging into walls, paintings, the refrigerator, even a wedding portrait of the couple. A bottle of champagne was hit, sending it exploding onto the floor. At least five bullets traveled through two sets of walls.
“I can’t believe the bullets they’re using. We would never survive this,” the wife said hours later, as she pointed to the holes left in her refrigerator. “These people meant business. They were not afraid to kill.”
After a few minutes of shooting, the robbers fled, squeezing out of the window they had initially opened. One of them left behind a pistol and a holster. Those, along with the home’s surveillance videos, were turned over to the police.
The victims said they were “very disappointed” with the NOPD’s response time. The wife said her phone call with the 911 dispatcher lasted 15 minutes before police arrived. “If we’d waited for NOPD, we’d be dead,” the wife said.
NOPD spokeswoman officer Hilal Williams, however, said the department’s response time was “acceptable” — officers were dispatched to the scene at 4:09 a.m. and the first units arrived at 4:18 a.m. Williams acknowledged that “10 minutes can feel like forever when you’re in that type of situation,” but still, she said, the reality is “we just can’t possibly have cars outside every house.”
Just hours earlier a few miles away, New Orleans police had investigated another home invasion where shots were fired. In that incident, a woman leaving a home in the 9100 block of Morrison Road was accosted by two men as she walked to her car. She ran back inside the house, the men followed her, and shots were fired, according to an NOPD daily crime log. No other information about that incident was available Wednesday.
Citing ongoing investigations, police at a public crime meeting in the 7th District, which patrols eastern New Orleans, declined to say Wednesday whether they believe the two home invasions could be related.
The St. Helena Place victims said they were shocked that the robbers were undeterred by their 10-foot fence, four cars in the driveway, signs warning of their security alarm system and visible cameras.
“If we’d waited for NOPD, we’d be dead.” — 34-year-old dentist whose husband engaged in a shootout with robbers during a home invasion
Before jumping through the home’s window, one of the robbers took a final drag of his cigarette, pinched the end and dropped the butt into his pocket — an action the wife took to be preventative of leaving DNA evidence. “This was not their first time,” the wife said. “These were professionals.”
The couple is now considering moving to Jefferson Parish, where they feel they will be safer. Worried about another horrifying attack, the wife said she gave strict instructions to her 8-year-old daughter: “Go under the bed. Don’t move. Don’t do anything. It doesn’t matter if Mommy and Daddy are dead — you have to protect yourself.”