Brothers plead guilty to New Orleans murders in federal court

Two New Orleans brothers pleaded guilty in federal court this week to accidentally gunning down a 33-year-old mother while trying to kill a rival drug dealer.

One of the brothers also admitted killing two other men who allegedly had supplied the pair with drugs.

Tamira Johnson was walking with her 13-year-old son in the Upper 9th Ward on Sept. 23, 2011, when she was caught in the crossfire of a drug feud between Antoine and Don Brooks and their rival, Roosevelt Rumbley.

The brothers were driving past when they spied Rumbley. Antoine Brooks, 23, took out his .40-caliber handgun and fired, striking Rumbley in the hand, according to the “factual basis” signed by both brothers as part of their pleas.

Johnson, accidentally shot in the head, died at the hospital.

In their joint guilty plea, Antoine and Don Brooks admitted they intended to kill Rumbley. Don Brooks also acknowledged killing two other men: Lamont Phillips and Harry Howard, who were shot dead within a few days of each other in January 2012.

The shell casings at the scene of Johnson’s shooting matched those recovered from the Phillips and Howard murder scenes.

Howard and Phillips allegedly supplied the Brooks brothers with crack cocaine, which they dealt from August 2011 until January 2012 at a Columbus Street address.

Don Brooks, a 21-year-old known on the streets as “Crip,” said he killed the two men during drug deals.

A car matching the description of Brooks’ silver Oldsmobile Alero was spotted in the street just before Howard was shot in the back on New Year’s Day of 2012. Cell phone records showed the brothers were near the scene of the murder.

Three days later, Phillips was killed in front of his house. A witness told investigators that Phillips was heard talking on the phone to a person named Crip. He said Phillips went outside to give Crip some drugs when the witness heard numerous gunshots and saw a man standing over Phillips’ body in the street. That man was fishing around in Phillips’ pockets, he said.

Just before he died, Phillips said, “Crip did me,” plea documents stated.

The next day, the brothers were involved in a shoot-out in the 7th Ward. Antoine was hit and taken to the hospital. A witness retrieved the brothers’ gun from the scene, and police later recovered it during a traffic stop. That gun matched the shell casings left at the scene of the Johnson, Howard and Phillips murders.

Both brothers pleaded guilty to using firearms in the Johnson murder in furtherance of drug trafficking, while Don Brooks also pleaded guilty to firing a gun in the Howard and Phillips killings. In the plea deal with prosecutors, Antoine Brooks accepted a sentence of 25 years in prison, while Don Brooks’ deal calls for three consecutive 20-year sentences, for a total of 60 years.

They had been charged in a broader drug-dealing conspiracy that also accused them of the murders.

The deals still need the approval of U.S. District Judge Lance Africk. Sentencing is scheduled for April 3.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and New Orleans Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Toomey.