NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A woman accused of stabbing two parents outside a Canal Street church Thursday morning has had previous brushes with the law, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro released a statement that was sharply critical of how the suspect had been handled previously by the criminal justice system.
“This is another very disturbing case that I believe illustrates the danger being placed upon the public because of external pressures to reduce the jail population through insufficient or non-existent bonds. This defendant already was accused of stabbing a man in the French Quarter in January, a violent offense for which she was freed on a $2,500 bond. She was arrested just last weekend on an allegation that she threatened to stab her own mother, for which a Municipal Court commissioner set a bond of $1,000. That bond was disregarded by the Municipal Court and she was given an outright release on Monday without a bond, in violation of state law. And now we have the tragic events of today.
“Our city’s zeal to see empty jail beds should not threaten public safety. And our courts need to be more judicious about releasing violent offenders, particularly when needed mental health and substance-abuse services remain lacking. This case cries out for the need for our courts to conduct mental health or substance-abuse evaluations before simply releasing someone without conditions or treatment of their underlying issues.”
In the Thursday morning incident, police were called to the 4300 block of Canal St. around 8:40 a.m.
“There was a mentally disturbed lady that was on the side of our church, underneath our breezeway that had probably sought shelter from the rain, underneath our breezeway,” Senior Pastor Page Brooks said.
Brooks said a man and woman encountered 46-year-old Uhuru Howard as they walked around the corner after dropping off their children at a daycare.
“At that time, unprovoked, from what we understand, the lady started to attack both parents,” Brooks said.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found the man and woman suffering from stab wounds. The female victim was taken to a local to a local hospital with stab wounds to the neck and back, and is currently listed in critical condition. The male victim was treated at the scene for a cut to the arm.
“I’m sitting in there with a shredder going, and I could hear her really good. And I was scared something happened out here, so I jumped up and I opened the door and looked out and I see her on the ground, and a little black lady standing over her like that,” Jimmy Smith said.
The NOPD arrested Howard, booking her with three counts of attempted murder. A third victim was identified as a 3-year-old juvenile female who was with the adult male at the time of the incident. The juvenile was not injured.
Some neighbors recognized Howard as someone who lives in the area.
“It sounds like it’s a lady that we’ve seen in the neighborhood before, but no connection to the church whatsoever,” Brooks said.
The daycare center was closed for the rest of the day, as Brooks reassured parents the kids were safe.
“I think it’s been very disturbing just in the sense of that broken safety that sometimes we think we enjoy in the city even in the city, but especially for the parents that are part of our tightknit community,” Brooks said.
Howard was arrested in January for stabbing a man in the French Quarter after she had an alleged altercation with his wife. She was out of jail on $1,500 bond.