Crimetracker: Summons issued instead of arrests in attack, gun discharge

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "It was a hell of an experience. We had to take him to the hospital," the victim's wife said.

A 73-year-old Vietnam veteran is still suffering after what he and his wife describe as an attack in front of their Gentilly home on Jan. 25.

"My grand-daughter received a phone call, and she went outside," the victim said.

He said three other women and a man were waiting for his grand-daughter outside, and the women began to fist fight.

"I saw my grand-daughter on the ground. When I got off my porch and near that post, I saw the girls kicking her in her face," the victim's wife said.

The elderly man said he wanted desperately to stop the fight, and he began trying to pull his grand-daughter up from the ground.

"I heard one of the girls say, 'He videoing.' That made me look toward where he was, and that's when I saw the guy leaning over him, and he pushed him," the victim's wife said.

"I felt a hard push, and I landed in the gutter on the other side of the street. I was bleeding from my nose, my finger and my lips. My tooth was broken," the victim said.

His wife said her husband fell head-first into the pavement. She says he hit so hard that he blacked out for a moment.

The girls stopped fighting and she said they all jumped into a car driven by the man who had pushed her husband to the ground. They quickly sped away.

"So, I got up to come into the house, and I have a trail of blood literally from over there. My wife, by that time, had called the police," the victim said.

A Third District officer arrived on the scene. The man's wife says she asked the officer to call for an ambulance when her husband's head and nose would not stop bleeding. She said his fingers were obviously broken.

"My finger here was out of place. The Tulane doctor had to put it back in place. These two fingers were like at a 90 degree position," the victim said.

She said he'll eventually need surgery to insert metal rods in his fingers. The fall knocked his tooth into his gums, which doctors had to remove. He also received stitches.

"All across his face, across his nose. I think he had seven stitches here and about nine in his finger," the victim's wife said.

She later found out police had picked up Antonio Hughes, the man accused of pushing her husband. And while police brought Hughes to the police station, they did not arrest him. Instead, police issued Hughes a summons for disturbing the peace.

"I was disgusted and disappointed in that," the victim's wife said. "I think he should have been arrested that night."

"A member of the police department, believe it or not, came to me and approached me. He said, 'My father has been the victim of what is a very, very serious offense.' He said, 'I hope you can do something and look at this because the person responsible for this wasn't arrested,'" District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said.

Cannizzaro said his office investigated and later charged Hughes with a felony for second-degree battery. And he said this isn't the first case brought to his attention involving the NOPD issuing a summons for what his office later determined to be a felony offense.

"The father of a victim called my office and wanted to know if it was normal protocol for someone who discharged a firearm into his daughter's house, if it was normal for the police to just issue a summons and not arrest the person responsible," Cannizzaro said.

That incident happened on Jan. 17. According to the police report, a woman called 911 when she said she heard a loud noise and her kitchen became filled with smoke.

Once the smoke cleared, she noticed a small hole in the top wall of the kitchen.

Responding officers went to talk to her neighbor, Jared Lorentz, about what happened. According to the police report, Lorentz told police, "I know why you're here." Lorentz said when trying to clean his firearm, his finger was inside of the trigger well and it caused an accidental discharge. Officers confiscated his firearm and issued him a summons for discharging a weapon.

"As a result of receiving that information, we conducted an investigation. We obtained the information that was available by the police department and we went out and made an arrest for a felony charge," Cannizzaro said.

Lorentz is now charged with negligent discharge of a firearm.

We reached out to the NOPD to find out why, in both cases, the responding officers issued a summons as opposed to making an arrest.

In the case of the bullet through a house, the NOPD's statement read, "There does not appear to be any intent to cause damage. Had the bullet struck anyone the charge would be negligent injury or even negligent homicide had someone been killed."

"The female victim was standing in her kitchen, and she indicated that the bullet missed her head by only about 2 feet, and it lodged in the wall right behind her. That's a much different set of circumstances," Cannizzaro said.

In the case involving the injured 73 year old, the NOPD statement reads, "Further follow-up was necessary. The initial charges were appropriate and only after learning of the victim's injuries and development of additional witnesses were the charges upgraded."

"If an individual didn't come forward and tell us about the circumstances of each case, we're never going to be made aware of it because the matter would be handled in Municipal Court, and as you know, we're not prosecuting in Municipal Court anymore," Cannizzaro said.

He said his office will continue to go after anyone who engages in violent acts.

"I certainly hope that the administration is not attempting to adhere to a policy whereby in serious cases people are going to be issued a summons, so that we're not brought those cases and we don't even get involved in the process," Cannizzaro said.

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