Black Boy, 14, Clings To Life After Being Shot In The Head By A White Homeowner
Marshall Coulter, 14, is in critical condition after being shot in the head on Friday by Merritt Landry, 33, a white homeowner and buildings inspector for the Historic District Landmarks Commission who believed Coulter was trying to break into his home in Marigny.
But according to police, Coulter was unarmed and did not pose a threat to Landry, who has been charged with attempted second-degree murder.
The police warrant states that Coulter was near Landry’s vehicle, about 30 feet away from Landry’s home, when he was shot around 2 a.m. Landry was alerted to Coulter’s presence on his property by his barking dog and claims that he went out to his front yard to confront Coulter. But as he made his way toward him, Landry says Coulter moved as if reaching for what he feared might be a weapon. Believing his life was in danger, Landry fired at Coulter, hitting him in the head.
But NOPD investigators dispute Landry’s story:
NOPD Detective Nicholas Williams spoke with an unidentified witness who gave an account that differed from Landry’s, though the detective did not specify how. Williams wrote in the warrant that Coulter was not trying to enter Landry’s house and did not pose an “imminent threat” to Landry.
Landry’s attorneys issued a statement on Friday, saying, “This incident is terrible, and Mr. Landry feels terrible about how things have occurred. Nevertheless, we remain convinced our client has done nothing wrong, and we are sure — as facts come to light — it’ll become clear that Mr. Landry will be fully exonerated of any wrongdoing.”
White Neighbors Stick Together
Landry’s neighbors have also defended him, citing the fact that he has a pregnant wife and baby daughter. His friend and neighbor, Charles Hazouri, told the Picayune, “He’s got a family. You’ve got to protect your own.” Hazouri also expressed concern that the shooting would garner as much attention as the murder of Trayvon Martin. “Unfortunately, I feel bad about it because I hope it doesn’t turn out to be another Florida deal,” Hazouri said. “I’m a permit holder and a gun owner myself. You’ve got to stand up for your family.”
Hazouri claims to have surveillance cameras outside his home that recorded two black teens riding BMX bikes in the neighborhood around 1:44 a.m. One of them, according to Hazouri, jumped the fence into Landry’s yard while the other stayed across the street.
Another of Landry’s white neighbors, who asked not to be identified, told the Picayune that he saw one of the same black teens the surveillance footage biking in the neighborhood around 8 p.m. looking at different houses. ”I thought about calling the cops, but the last thing I want to do is racially profile a little kid who’s just biking,” he said.
A Devastated Family
Meanwhile, Coulter’s family told the Picayune that he is paralyzed on the left side of his body and has only partial movement on the right. Should he survive, doctors warn he will likely have sever brain damage.
David Coulter, Marshall’s grief-stricken older brother, explained to the Picayune that he and his siblings have had a rough few years but Marshall is still a good kid.
Coulter is the seventh of eight children. Coulter’s 23-year-old brother, David Coulter, said he had largely raised the children after their father died three years ago of stomach cancer. David said he and his mother did his best to keep Marshall out of trouble.
Marshall Coulter, who had been on medication for attention deficit hyperactive disorder, was awaiting trial for “stealing stuff,” his brother said.
“He would steal — he was a professional thief, sure,” David Coulter said. “But he would never pick up a gun, not in a million years. He was too scared to aim a gun at the grass, let alone aim it at a person. No way. Before he’ll ever pick up a gun, he’ll be your friend first.
“He’s still a little boy,” the brother said. “Who pulls a trigger on a 14-year-old? What if it was your little brother or your sister? How would you feel?”
David made it clear that he has no interest in comparing his brother to Trayvon Martin, telling the Picayune, “That was Trayvon, this is Marshall. This is a whole different world. This is my little brother’s life on the line – I don’t care about anything else.” However, he did express a desire to see Landry held accountable . “I want to see a prosecution, not somebody who gets out after a couple of years. I want to see the system do its job for once.”
Protecting your family is one thing, but taking the law into your own hands is quite another. If Landry believed a bugler was outside his home, he should have called 911. Of course he has every right to go outside and check things out for himself. But he didn’t even bother verbally warning Marshall Coulter to leave when he saw him near his car. Even police are required to do as much. Instead, as soon as the kid moved, Landry shot him. And last I checked, there is no law that permits you to shoot a human being just because they’re on your property, especially if you haven’t even asked them to leave.
On top of that, this was a white man reacting to a black teen who did nothing to threaten him. But for Landry, the mere act of “moving” or “reaching” while black is threatening enough to warrant a gunshot to the head. Would he have reacted the same way to a white 14-year-old in his yard? Who knows. But the fact that his white neighbor and friend was suspicious of a black teen biking in their neighborhood earlier that evening simply because he was black leads me to believe that perhaps Landry’s mentality isn’t much different.
For those who believe Landry did nothing wrong, I’d like to know: would your conclusion be the same if a black homeowner had shot an unarmed white teen in his yard? If so, where were you when John McNeil, a black homeowner, was sentenced to life in prison in Georgia for shooting an armed white man who was threatening him and his son with a knife? Were you on the front lines of the protests to free him?
Stand Your Ground
Louisiana, where this latest shooting took place, has both a “castle doctrine” and stand your ground” law. The state’s castle law allows Louisiana residents to use force, deadly or otherwise, to prevent an offense against one’s safety or property in his or her “castle”, but the amount of force has to be “reasonable and apparently necessary to prevent such offense.”
Louisiana’s self defense laws also include a Justifiable Homicide statute that deems homicide justifiable if committed in self-defense by a person who “reasonably believes” they’re in imminent danger of great bodily harm or death. The problem with these types of laws is the definition of “reasonable”, or lack thereof. A white jury might “reasonably believe” that a black 14-year-old, armed or not, poses a danger so great that execution is warranted.
Louisiana’s stand your ground statute, passed in 2006, states: ”A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and who is in a place where he or she has a right to be shall have no duty to retreat before using deadly force as provided for in this Section, and may stand his or her ground and meet force with force.” I imagine the legal issue here would be that Coulter never attacked Landry. He was just standing in his yard. So shooting the teen was not ‘meeting force with force’. Nevertheless, the Louisiana law is nearly identical to the Florida statute, so again, it all depends on the jury.