Bourbon St shooting victim hard-working student

AP News
Posted: Jul 03, 2014 7:59 PM
Bourbon St shooting victim hard-working student

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The 21-year-old who died after being shot on Bourbon Street over the weekend was a sunny, hard-working woman who kept in touch for years with the school where she got her high-school equivalency diploma, an official there said.

Brittany Thomas of Hammond, Louisiana, died Wednesday at University Interim Hospital in New Orleans, where she was taken after Sunday's shooting, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Thursday.

"Everybody that knows Brittany knows she's such a sweet girl, so full of energy," Donika Garner, program director at Quad Area Community Action Agency, told the Hammond Star ( ). "She was very studious. She was a hard worker, very bright. She was always helping her classmates."

She said Thomas, who got her GED in 2011, was a cheerleader for two years, before the program was phased out, and was in the Spanish and yearbook clubs. Garner said she last saw Thomas about six months ago, but until then she had stopped by regularly.

"She didn't stay far from the school, so she came back and visited about once a month," Garner said. "I'd ask her if she was in school yet, and she'd say she's working on it, trying to figure out what she wanted to do."

Thomas was among 10 people hit by bullets when two gunmen opened fire on each other around 2:45 a.m. Sunday in the city's famed French Quarter.

One remained hospitalized in stable condition Thursday, said Siona LaFrance, spokeswoman for LSU Interim Hospital, the regional trauma center. She said one was released Thursday and one Wednesday. All had asked the hospital not to release further information, she said.

Justin Odom, 20, of Marrero, identified by New Orleans police as a "person of interest" in connection with the shooting, turned himself in Wednesday.

An attorney was with Odom when New Orleans police questioned him, said Officer Hilal Williams, a department spokeswoman.

"We are still investigating what his involvement may be. This is an on-going investigation and no further information can be given at this time," she said in an email.

Odom was booked into the Jefferson Parish jail on previous shoplifting and traffic charges and was released Thursday because of overcrowding, said Cpl. John Fortunato, a sheriff's office spokesman.

Police said earlier they were looking for another man with whom Odom associates.

Court records show Odom pleaded guilty in March to a pair of marijuana-possession counts stemming from arrests this year and last year in Jefferson Parish, The New Orleans Advocate ( reported. He received credit for time served.

LaFrance said Wednesday that a 21-year-old Australian woman had been released from the hospital. Other victims, not hospitalized, included two New Orleans-area men, a teenage girl and a woman from Alabama, and a Florida man.

The Australian woman, identified by The West Australian ( ) as Amy Williams, of Mount Hawthorn, a suburb of Perth, didn't answer messages sent via her Facebook page and "Repair Amy's smile," a page created to raise money to reconstruct her teeth.

She told the newspaper that all or part of a bullet went in through her right cheek and out her top lip, knocking out most of her teeth, burning her gums and requiring 30 stitches in her tongue and a metal support for the roof of her mouth.

The shootings happened as tourists walked the historic street of century-old, neon-bedecked buildings, housing bars, restaurants, shops and strip clubs in the heart of the city's oldest neighborhood.

Police chief Ronal Serpas said overtime and people from other parts of the department will put 500 extra officers on duty in key spots as thousands of visitors hit town for the annual Essence Festival, which began Thursday.

Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said Thursday that Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed off on a plan to redeploy 50 state troopers and public safety officers to help with law enforcement over the Fourth of July holiday and through Labor Day in New Orleans.

Edmonson told The Associated Press on Thursday that the contingent has been assigned to work with the New Orleans Police Department in whatever capacity it is needed.

"This is all about supporting the New Orleans Police Department," Edmonson said. "This is a part of our ongoing partnership and our belief in proactive policing."

The news comes as the city continues to come to grips with the deadly shooting. Mayor Mitch Landrieu had asked for the assignment of 100 permanent troopers.

Landrieu thanked Edmonson for the help.

"The additional support today is a step in the right direction and we are hopeful that Governor Jindal will permanently assign additional state troopers to our city," Landrieu said in a statement.

Williams said her university thesis was about gun use in the U.S.

"Because of last year and all the little kids who were shot, I thought something would definitely be done, but it just shows you how embedded the whole gun culture is in the U.S.," she told the paper.

"This won't deter me from coming back, but it makes me angry that the government can't be strong enough to say, 'No, something needs to be done.'"