A closing chapter of one New Orleans tragedy may have served as the opening of another one last week, as police say a man left the courtroom where his nephew received a life sentence and soon afterward fatally shot another man himself and pushed the victim’s body from his truck onto the South Broad overpass.
The uncle, Alvin Richardson, 47, was arrested Saturday in Gretna with a pending second-degree murder warrant in the shooting death the day before of 29-year-old Barry Blackwell on South Broad Street.
Witnesses outside the police and courthouse complex on South Broad around 2:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, heard gunfire, and one bystander on the corner of Perdido Street was grazed by a bullet, police said at the time. Moments later, Blackwell’s body was pushed from Richardson’s pickup into the street as the truck fled over the South Broad overpass, police said. As he drove on, Richardson apparently got into an altercation with a motorcyclist on Clio Street, and fired shots that struck the motorcycle but not its driver, police said.
From a hotel room in Gretna on Saturday morning, Richardson called 911, afraid that some people were “coming to get” him because he had been on the South Broad overpass during Friday’s shooting. After conversations with police, Richardson was determined to be the suspect in the case, and investigators seized both the truck and a gun they believe were used in the shooting, police said — noting Richardson’s history of mental illness.
Subsequent investigation has determined that Richardson had sat in Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson’s courtroom Friday for the sentencing of his nephew, Jeffery Washington, to life in prison, said Sgt. Nick Gernon of the NOPD Homicide Division on Wednesday. Washington was one of two men convicted of murder in January in the death of 18-year-old Dillard University student Marguerite LaJoy Washington (no kin to Jeffery), after rejecting a 27-year-old plea deal for a manslaughter charge.
Richardson had actually urged his nephew not to take the plea deal, but to seek the jury trial instead, Gernon said.
“Watching his nephew get sentenced might have been the catalyst for his mental breakdown,” Gernon said.
At the sentencing hearing, LaJoy Washington’s mother, Margaret, gave statement about the impact the loss of her daughter has had on her life. LaJoy had been at the home of a new boyfriend the night she was slain, struck down by bullets fired from outside and intended for him. Margaret Washington said she has forgiven her daughter’s killers for their mistake and wanted them to take the plea deal.
The sentencing hearing concluded around noon, Margaret Washington said, so it is unclear where Richardson might have been between then and the 2:30 p.m. shooting on Broad Street. She said she left the courthouse around 1 p.m., and did not know until a call from Mid-City Messenger on Wednesday afternoon that someone who had been in the courtroom with her was the gunman in the afternoon’s shooting.
Even so, Margaret Washington said, she still regrets that Jeffery Washington ignored the advice to take the plea deal and instead followed the counsel of those suggesting a trial that ultimately led to his life sentence.
“I felt sorry for him,” Margaret Washington said, describing her wish that his life could have been salvaged. “But that family should be experiencing a world of guilt.”
Gernon said it remains unknown why Richardson turned his gun on Blackwell — the two were friends, but Gernon said he did not know if Blackwell had attended court with Richardson.
Although New Orleans police plan to seek Richardson’s extradition on the murder charge, he may not leave Jefferson Parish any time soon, Gernon said. Years ago, Richardson served time in prison for the attempted murder of a police officer, so Gretna police arrested him on a charge of illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office will have discretion of how to handle that charge before Richardson is allowed to leave Jefferson Parish, Gernon said.