A shooting in New Orleans is drawing some early, albeit questionable, comparisons to the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Merritt Landry, a 33-year-old New Orleans building inspector, shot 14-year-old Marshall Coulter in the head last week.
Landry shot the teenager at two a.m. outside of his gated property. Landry told New Orleans police that he became aware of the teenager when his dog began barking in the middle of the night. As he looked outside, he saw the teenager about 30 feet away, close to the fence surrounding Landry’s property.
Landry says he yelled out “freeze” to the boy. After his warning, Landry claims he saw Coulter’s hand move towards his hip. Landry, fearing that Coulter was grabbing a weapon, shot the boy in the head.
Surveillance video from the night shows Coulter inside Landry’s gated property while a friend waits across the street. One of Landry’s neighbors considered calling the police on Coulter earlier in the night, but decided not to.
“I thought about calling the cops, but the last thing I want to do is racially profile a little kid who's just biking," the neighbor said.
A witness from the night spoke to New Orleans police and offered a different account of the shooting than Landry. New Orleans police have not released the details of the eyewitness narrative, but there must be some significant differences between the two narratives. After examining evidence and hearing the witness testimony, police ruled that Coulter did not pose any imminent threat to Landry.
As a result, Landry has been charged with second-degree murder. He has been suspended without pay from his job with the city of New Orleans until his legal issues are resolved.
Coulter’s older brother, David Coulter, spoke to the Times Picayune of New Orleans recently about Marshall, who is currently in critical condition at a New Orleans hospital. David, the oldest of seven, played a large role in raising his siblings after their father passed away three years ago.
“He would steal -- he was a professional thief, sure," he 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?"
Coulter added that he has no interest in comparing the shooting of his brother to the shooting of Trayvon Martin.
“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."
New Orleans has strict “castle laws” for residents of the state. Under the laws, Louisiana residents can use force, deadly or otherwise, to protect oneself on his or her property, or “castle”.
Landry and his legal team are appealing the murder charge in accordance with this law.
“This incident is terrible, and Mr. Landry feels terrible about how things have occurred,” Landry’s attorneys said in a statement. “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."