It sounds like a bad Jeff Foxworthy joke. A drunk, middle-aged man unloads his handgun in his backyard, hitting a passing truck, and then tries to punch a cop in the balls after the law comes knocking. Only the suspect in this case isn't your typical redneck. He's Martin LeNoir, one of the top defense attorneys in Dallas.
On Labor Day at around 4:40 p.m., Bob Kennedy was driving his truck on Sperry Street in Lakewood when his driver's side window shattered. The glass fell on his lap. He heard a gunshot and feared someone was shooting at him. Kennedy was heading to nearby Scalini's to pick up a pizza.
"I don't know how I didn't get hit," Kennedy says. "It was amazing."
After his truck was struck, Kennedy sped a few blocks to the intersection of Sperry and Wendover Road and dialed 911. There he warned motorists and pedestrians not to head down Sperry because it would take them straight into gangster's paradise. Or something like that.
When the police arrived, they found glass on the street and a spent round from 9 mm handgun. They talked to witnesses who also heard the unusual sound of gunshots ringing through their upper-class neighborhood. Then right across the street, the police saw holes in the backyard fence of a McMansion on Sperry and Northridge Drive. They knocked on the door and asked if they could search the house. When they were let into the backyard, the officers immediately saw evidence that incriminated the suspect. (The police report doesn't specify what it was they found.) According to the report, the "suspect," whom police won't name because they say he hasn't yet been charged, became belligerent and attempted to punch an officer in the groin. The officer sidestepped the jab and handcuffed his would-be assailant. The report notes that the suspect was intoxicated, which doesn't come as much of a surprise.
The police are still investigating the shooting, but Jan Easterling, who oversees the Dallas Police Department's Northeast Division, says that the police will likely charge LeNoir with deadly conduct and assault, a class B and class C misdemeanor respectively. The department is conducting ballistics tests on the handgun in question to determine if it fired the bullets recovered at the scene.
The officers who arrived at the house decided not to arrest the man because he looked ill. Instead, he was brought to Baylor Medical Center where medical personnel discovered he had dangerously low blood pressure. Easterling says that the Lakewood suspect "did not receive any preferential treatment."
"We see a lot of different people who are intoxicated, but sometimes you see something that causes an officer concern for whatever reason," Easterling says. "We don't want to put them in any danger he1alth-wise, and obviously we made the right call here."
Still, the police officers' treatment of LeNoir certainly seems milder than you might expect considering that he allegedly shot off his handgun in his backyard before swinging at a cop. But the department's brass insists that LeNoir wasn't treated any differently because he's a prominent lawyer.
"I've never heard of him, so I'm certain they haven't," says Lieutenant Vernon Hale, a spokesman with the department. "We don't keep up with defense attorneys."
While police aren't identifying him yet, LeNoir's address is listed on one of the police reports, and a friend of his concedes that he's the one who fired the errant shots. LeNoir lives in a house appraised at $574,000 on property tax rolls, right at the intersection of Sperry and Northridge, where the shooting took place, and three days after the incident, bullet holes are visible in his backyard fence. In addition, KTVT-Channel 11, which ran a brief report of the Labor Day shooting, identified LeNoir as the suspect. LeNoir did not return repeated calls from the Dallas Observer.
Kennedy says that he heard over the police radio that when LeNoir answered the door for the cops, he was naked. That revealing information is not included in the police report. Kennedy adds that he spoke to attorney Nancy Mulder, a friend of LeNoir's who lives down the street. Mulder, a former prosecutor, tried to help LeNoir after she arrived. Mulder also told Kennedy that LeNoir is under a lot of personal stress, stemming from the end of a relationship.
"This guy obviously has big-time problems," Kennedy says. "What he did was wrong, but he wasn't trying to hurt me."
Kennedy isn't sure how many bullets struck his truck, although there is a sharp hole in his rear passenger side window. Kennedy says that a police officer explained to him that the bullet that took out his driver's side window probably came through the rear of the truck and sailed over his shoulder.
A former prosecutor for Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade, LeNoir is one of the most respected lawyers in the city. He was named as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in D magazine's annual "Best Lawyers" issue. He's also been featured as a Texas Monthly "Super Lawyer." Local defense attorneys, quick to praise LeNoir for winning tough cases, were stunned at the reports that their colleague was involved in a drunken shooting.
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"I've never heard him raise a hand to anybody or even raised his voice to anybody," says George R. Milner, who has known LeNoir for 15 years. "Violence doesn't seem to be a part of his character."
Still, other attorneys hint that LeNoir sometimes fits into the work hard, play hard culture of their profession.
"He's a smart, extremely capable attorney," says defense lawyer Ed Gray, another former prosecutor in Wade's office. "But all of us are capable of doing some unwise things when we drink too much."
On his Web site, LeNoir boasts of his effectiveness. "Martin LeNoir has had particular success in representing citizens where criminal problems arise from drug or alcohol abuse or addiction," he writes. Let's hope he doesn't represent himself.