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Suspect In French Quarter Police Shooting Charged With Two Counts Of Attempted Murder

Aubri Juhasz
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson addresses reporters after the shooting of an officer in the French Quarter Friday afternoon.

The man suspected of ambushing two New Orleans police officers in the French Quarter last Friday has been charged with two counts of attempted murder of an NOPD officer, Superintendent Shaun Ferguson announced Monday.

Ferguson identified the man as Donnell Hassell, a 44-year-old military veteran who lives in Georgia.

Police believe that Hassell, while riding in the back of a pedicab, fired a pistol at a police SUV, shooting one officer in the face below his left eye. The attack occurred at around 4:30 p.m. Friday at the corner of Royal and St. Philip streets.

The pedicab driver was unaware of Hassell’s plans and crashed his bicycle into the sidewalk at the time of the shooting, according to police. Hassell ran from the scene and was shortly apprehended at the intersection of Decatur and St. Peter streets.

A discarded pistol was found near where Hassell was arrested, according to police. Hassell was wearing an empty gun holster at the time of his arrest.

Hassell was taken to a hospital following his arrest Friday because he appeared to be having a “nonphysical medical emergency,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson described Hassell as “a bit incoherent” and could not confirm whether he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of his arrest. On Saturday, Hassell was transferred to the parish jail’s mental health ward.

Hassell was found to have no connection to terrorist organizations or anti-police groups, following an investigation by federal authorities. He does not have a prior criminal record either.

“Unfortunately at this time we still do not have a motive for his actions,” Ferguson said.

Police also do not know why Hassell was in New Orleans, though they have searched his hotel room and located his motorcycle.

Hassell did not have prior contact with the officers and refused to explain his motivations during a police interview, Ferguson said. Investigators are in the process of contacting Hassell’s family.

The investigation into Friday’s shooting is considered active and ongoing, Ferguson said.

Officer Trevor Abney, 31, remains in the hospital with a bullet lodged in his skull, while Officer Brooke Duncan IV was discharged Friday night. Duncan suffered minor cuts to his arm from the SUV’s shattered window.

“Officer Abney will have a long recovery process and we will be there with him every step of the way,” Ferguson said.

Abney remains in “decent spirits,” Ferguson said, though doctors are concerned about the vision in his left eye.

Hasselle’s bond has been set at $1.5 million. His current charges carry a minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum sentence of 50 years for each count.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.

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