NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - What started as a great weekend in New Orleans to celebrate Mark Whittaker Allen’s 30th birthday ended in trauma for him and his friends visiting from Colorado, when they were attacked and beaten by party bus passengers on Canal Street early Sunday (Feb. 10).
Gabrielle Lee said she, her boyfriend Mark Whittaker Allen, and three of their friends had just left their hotel and were walking near the intersection of St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street around 2 a.m., when they noticed a woman who appeared to be homeless being heckled by people hanging out the windows of a party bus.
When one of their friends, Matt Wasserman, approached the woman and told the hecklers to stop, Lee said a group of the passengers exited the bus and started yelling at them. Lee said almost everyone in the group appeared to be teenage boys. As they were walking away, Allen was attacked from behind by one of boys, who punched him in the face and knocked him unconscious. Wassterman was also hit, as was the woman being heckled, Lee said.
Their other friend, Sarvenaz Chaichian said she yelled to her friends to call 911 as she hurried to take a photo of the bus’s license plate after seeing Allen lying bloody on the sidewalk.
“He wasn’t awake and I knew not to move him,” Lee said. “Once I saw him start moving and trying to move his head, I rolled him over and his teeth and blood were all over my hands, but luckily he was awake.”
The teens ran back onto the bus, which then drove off, Lee said. She said the bus circled back around the scene twice before driving off.
New Orleans police confirmed the attack to FOX 8 Wednesday afternoon. According to NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham, responding officers stopped the bus while investigating the attack but were told the attackers were no longer on board. The owner of the party bus company Tweezy Entertainment told FOX 8 everyone one the bus was 21 or older and the suspects did not get back on board after the attack.
The attack left Allen with a broken jaw, which will stay wired shut until it heals. He also left with missing and broken teeth, stitches on his chin and lip and a mild brain injury, Lee said. Allen is an engineering student at University of Colorado at Denver and Lee said he will probably miss a week of class.
The group is all back in Colorado now, but Lee said Allen has a long recovery ahead of him, including another surgery scheduled Thursday.
Cunningham said detectives have identified several possible suspects, but as of Wednesday afternoon, the department had not released any details regarding their identities. Anyone with additional information about the attack is asked to contact Eighth District Detective Paul Johnson at 504-658-6080.
“This type of violence is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the City of New Orleans,” said Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson. “I can assure the victims and public, the NOPD is working hard to identify and locate those responsible... and bring them to justice.”