Police following lead on unidentified gunman, believe shooter acted alone
Slidell police said they have a strong lead on the lone gunman they believe was responsible for a shooting spree that left two Slidell men dead and six injured outside an Olde Towne bar early Thursday morning, but Chief Randy Smith declined to identify the suspect publicly.
Errol Scott, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after the 1:30 a.m. shooting, according to police. Mark Womack, 23, died at about 11 a.m.
The six other victims are in stable condition, Smith said, although one underwent surgery Thursday afternoon at Slidell Memorial Hospital.
Smith said police believe Scott was the target of the gunman and that Womack and the other victims were bystanders.
Police investigators remained on the scene outside Shooters Social Bar on First Street for nearly 12 hours, questioning witnesses and reviewing surveillance video. The St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Marshals Service, as well as probation and parole officers, are assisting in the investigation, Smith said.
Smith and other Slidell officials called Thursday’s violence unusual for the city. The two deaths bring the total number of homicide victims in Slidell this year to five.
“This is not a common occurrence in the city of Slidell,” Mayor Freddy Drennan said.
Olde Towne is the heart of the city, and the city has been working to revive it, Drennan said. Business owners there have a right to be concerned, he said, adding, “We’re concerned.”
A man who identified himself as the owner of Shooters, but who declined to give his name, said two customers were arguing inside the bar early Thursday and security personnel told them to leave, which they did. Shortly thereafter, the bar began getting ready for its 2 a.m. closing and was moving people out, the owner said.
Outside, the argument between the two men had escalated into a fistfight, according to police and the bar owner. The owner then heard gunshots, which he said were fired from across the street.
Ronnie Dunaway, who lives next door to his Olde Towne business, the Who Dat Shoppe, said he was awakened by five or six rounds of gunfire. He drove the one-block distance to the bar and saw a large crowd of people running and yelling, and injured people lying on the ground.
“It was chaos,” he said, describing the crowd as rowdy and confrontational with police. He called the bar a problem for the neighborhood, with fights and wild parties not unusual.
However, Slidell City Councilman Lionel Hicks, who represents the area, said he has not been getting complaint calls from Olde Towne in recent years — not since Club Phoenix burned down in 2011. Hicks, a former police officer, said that when the city first instituted a 2 a.m. curfew years ago, there were sometimes problems at closing time and the department typically stationed a patrol car there.
That’s still the case, according to Smith, and a patrol car was near the bar when the shooting occurred. Police said there are occasional fights in the area but that such violence is unusual.
Police reopened a two-block stretch of First Street at about 1 p.m.
Blood stains were still visible on the street and sidewalk as workers at Tacos and Beer, an eatery next door to Shooters, cleared away outdoor tables and chairs.
A woman walked up to a white Infiniti with bloody handprints on it that was parked in front of Shooters. She placed a bouquet of flowers on a pool of blood on the sidewalk nearby, then got in the car and drove away.
Ervin Darby, who played football with Scott at Salmen High School and graduated with him in 2010, surveyed the scene with visible emotion Thursday afternoon. He had rushed there hours before, when friends called to tell him that Scott had been shot in the head. He waited there until he saw Scott taken away.
“If you needed a laugh, he would be there for you,” Darby said, describing Scott as the most loyal of friends. “It’s a painful feeling ... coming after Christmas. Every Christmas, everyone who loved him will think of this,” he said.
Womack, a 2009 graduate of Slidell High School, was a student at Southeastern Louisiana University, the school confirmed Thursday.
His father, Bradley Womack, said his son, who played football in high school, was studying sports management and was president of Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity at SLU.