Victims assaulted with bats
The attacks were equally stunning for their severity and senselessness.
At least two men who bicycled on Esplanade Avenue in recent days were brutally beaten with baseball bats, requiring hospitalizations for a fractured skull in one instance and a fractured jaw in the other.
Police believe the cases are related and were done for nothing other than the assailants’ own amusement since neither victim was robbed — an idea that has had a chilling effect on some who pedal up and down the thoroughfare on a regular basis, using the newly added bicycle lane.
“Where is it safe?” asked Devin Brooks, who rides on Esplanade on a regular basis. “On the big streets there is space for us (because of the new lanes). In neighborhoods, those people drive sort of crazy. But then there’s this.”
The first attack happened about 2:20 a.m. Friday, according to New Orleans police.
A 32-year-old man was riding his bike on Esplanade when he slowed down after someone jumped out from behind a vehicle parked near North Robertson Street.
Suddenly another person stepped into the street and seconds later swung an aluminum baseball bat, striking the victim in the mouth.
The unknown attackers made a quick getaway on foot, while the victim was taken to the hospital to be treated for a fractured jaw and injuries to his upper and lower teeth.
As police began to investigate that activity, they were notified of a similar attack four blocks away.
About 2:50 a.m., in the 1200 block of Esplanade, another man on a bicycle was approached by two people, one of whom delivered a swift and serious blow to the cyclist’s head, fracturing his skull.
The 25-year-old victim in that incident could not provide police with a description of his attackers, according to 1st District Lt. Ronnie Stevens, but neighbors said they saw two unknown black males run from the area after the man was hit. Both wore hooded sweatshirts.
The victim in the earlier attack told police the people who were responsible for his injuries were black males between 16 and 18 years of age and tall with thin builds. One wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, while the other wore a black hooded sweatshirt.
A recent email message sent by the Faubourg St. John Neighborhood Association to members claims several more cyclists also were beaten with bats while using Esplanade on Thursday.
A search of NOPD crime maps show no other aggravated batteries on Esplanade since Feb. 1.
New Orleans police first sent out word about the Friday attacks on Monday. The department did not respond Tuesday to a question about the possible other attacks.
Police did say they had no new developments regarding the investigations into Friday’s attacks but that increased patrols on Esplanade will continue until arrests are made.
Regardless of the patrols, some see the crimes as nothing more than a reality of life in an urban city.
“It could happen anywhere. I think people should just be alert,” said Juan Chang, who bicycles along the avenue as the most direct way to get from his Marigny home to City Park.
Now, he said, he is encouraging some friends to pair up while riding at night as a way to help stay safe, but he does not plan to change his routine.
“For me, honestly, I’m not worried about it,” Chang said. “This happens every day all over the world.”
Anyone with information or videos of the incidents is asked to contact Detective Tristan Carter at (504) 658-6010 or Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.