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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Victims of a 2014 Bourbon Street shooting spree express satisfaction at the conviction of Trung Le, who fired the first four bullets.
But they're calling on authorities to keep pursuing the still-unknown shooter who fired back 11 bullets on the French Quarter tourist strip.
The gunfire erupted early on the morning of June 29, 2014 as tourists strolled the famous street of nightspots. It killed 21-year-old Brittany Thomas, who was visiting New Orleans from Hammond, Louisiana and wounded nine others.
The outbreak of violence stunned the tourism-dependent city, renewed attention to manpower shortages at the city police department and led state police to help beef up the city's patrols in the French Quarter.
Le, a 22-year-old Belle Chasse resident, was convicted Friday of manslaughter of Thomas and of attempted manslaughter for firing at the other gunman.
He faces 20 to 40 years in prison for manslaughter, and a maximum 20 years for attempted manslaughter. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 18.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro told local media that police are still looking for the second shooter, who police say fired the bullet that killed Thomas.
"We want to first of all apprehend him," Cannizzaro said. "I know the police are going to work, they have been working very, very hard."
Nina Jasper, whose daughter, Sharome Rudolph, was shot through her ankle, said the verdict meant justice, but she wanted more.
"They just need to find the unknown shooter and it'll be total justice," she said.
Based on where the victims stood at the time, prosecutors alleged that Le's four bullets struck five people, including an Australian woman, Amy Matthews, who was shot in the mouth, fracturing her jaw and costing her more than half her teeth.
"Can I say awesome?!" Matthews exclaimed following the verdict. "It's justice for every one of the victims for sure."
For Mariko Thomas, mother of the slain nursing student, the trial "was hard, it made me upset," she said after the verdict was read. But the conclusion brought relief. "Now my baby can rest in peace," Thomas said.
The verdicts followed two hours of jury deliberation. Martin Regan, Le's lawyer, argued he fired in self-defense. Regan pointed to a surveillance video that shows the man lifting his arm in the direction of Le and his friends before the shooting. It's not clear if the other man held a gun at that point. Regan characterized the second man as a "terrorist," who said "I got a .40 for you" when aiming his silver .40-caliber pistol at the group.
The lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Laura Rodrigue, argued the second shooter attempted to walk away from Le, showing he had no expectation of a violent encounter. Ten seconds passed from the time the second man raised his arm to the time he returned fire, Rodrigue said, and he didn't do so until shell casings showed he was approximately 22 feet away.
"There has not been one ounce of testimony that tells us Trung Le was in fear or apprehension," Rodrigue said Friday. "That's the only critical element."
Regan said the defense case was hampered by the state's unwillingness to turn over names of witnesses. The judge ordered the state to turn over 20-plus names less than five days before the trial started.
"If you want a fair trial you need a chance for attorneys to interview witnesses," he said. "I cannot put on an effective defense without witnesses."
Regan also defended the decision not to have Le take the witness stand. "I think the videos cleared our client. They told the whole story."
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