NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - What started as a security guard trying to kick a man out of a Willie’s Chicken Shack in the French Quarter turned deadly when the man opened fire in the 400 block of Bourbon Street early Sunday (Feb. 24).
The bullets struck both the security guard and the gunman himself, who New Orleans police identified as 37-year-old Louis Barnes. Also struck was an innocent bystander -- local nurse Julie Couvillon, 36.
New Orleans native David Lewis Williams, Jr. said he was on Bourbon Street around 3 a.m. when he heard shots ring out.
“I heard the first pop and I ran to him, and then the second pop and he fell over,” Williams said, recalling the the moment the security guard was hit. “NOPD officers were actually on the scene in seconds and they grabbed the guy that shot him."
Investigators believe Barnes took the security guard’s weapon while he was being removed from the business, which he then fired multiple times. After the shots stopped, Williams said he saw Couvillon lying on the ground.
Couvillon was rushed to University Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
A week after five people were injured in a shootout with police downtown, Mayor Latoya Cantrell and NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson reiterated their commitment to safety in the French Quarter and across the city during Carnival season.
Cantrell said they are “definitely focused on [Couvillon’s] family,” and do not take this incident lightly.
“More importantly, as it related to guns and weapons on Bourbon Street and in the city of New Orleans, holistically, will not be tolerated,” Cantrell said. "
Ferguson said NOPD works hard to prevent violence in the French Quarter and said since Friday, officers arrested seven people for illegally carrying weapons on Bourbon Street alone.
“This will not be accepted,” Ferguson said. “We’re working with our local, state and federal partners to make sure individuals are not being armed and causing a disruption to our citizens here in the French quarter."
Meanwhile, those who knew Couvillon are mourning her death. Oschner confirmed Couvillon worked for the hospital and released a statement after her tragic death.
“An employee for 13 years, Julie was a beloved nurse who dedicated her life to caring for others. This is a devastating loss to to the nurses, employees, physicians and staff across our system,” the statement reads, in part.
As of Sunday evening, the security guard had undergone surgery and was listed in stable condition.
Barnes was booked into the Orleans Justice Center jail around 10:30 a.m. Saturday on one count each of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. He appears to be in a hospital gown in his booking photo, but he appeared in court later that day where Orleans Parish Magistrate Commissioner Robert Blackburn set his bond at $1.5 million and assigned a public defender to his case.
Online court records show Barnes has a lengthy criminal history in Orleans Parish with charges dating back to 1999. At the time of his arrest, Barnes had an open case regarding his failure to register as a sex offender, stemming from a 2015 carnal knowledge of a juvenile charge out of Jefferson Parish.