Tashonty Toney was identified as the motorist accused of mowing down a group of bicyclists along Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“UPDATE: The #NOPD has arrested Tashonty Toney, 32. CHARGES: (2) counts of vehicular homicide, (7) counts of vehicular negligent injury, hit and run, and reckless operation. It is believed Toney was impaired at the time of the incident,” the New Orleans Police Department wrote in a statement. Authorities were conducting a blood alcohol test.
News Orleans police say that two people were killed when Toney’s vehicle crashed into a group of bicyclists along Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans, Louisiana, leaving victims strewn across a three-block area. The deceased victims are a man and a woman, both age 30.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tashonty Toney’s Father is a New Orleans Police Officer
Tashonty Toney comes from a law enforcement family, and allegations say he made that clear right away at the scene.
According to the Advocate, Tashony Toney is the son of a New Orleans police officer. Toney’s mother, Debra Toney, told the newspaper that the father’s name was Reginald Cook.
“During the course of the investigation it has been learned the subject is the son of an NOPD Officer,” NOPD Spokesman Andy Cunningham said in a statement. “This discovery does not change and will not impact our department’s investigation which will be open and transparent.”
One witness alleged to the Advocate that Toney said at the scene, “Call my daddy — call my daddy. He’s NOPD.”
According to WDSU, NOPD’s federal consent decree monitor was at the scene and is monitoring the investigation to ensure transparency.
“We have had a double fatality,” police said in a news conference. “We received calls of bicyclists struck in the Esplanade corridor…(authorities) were able to apprehend the suspect.” Police said the injured stretched from the 3400 to 3200 block of Esplanade. Nine people were struck overall, police said. Two were killed, and five people are in the hospital. Authorities at first thought there were only eight victims, but they expanded the injury count in the hours after the incident to nine.
The names of the victims were not yet released.
Toney doesn’t appear to have an extensive social media presence, although photos of him appear with family members on a couple of their pages. In 2016, Toney’s mother shared a photo of another woman holding up a sign that read, “Most people won’t care about this but this year makes 22 years with 3 kids and neither one has never been to jail. Plz can you like and share.”
2. Citizens Stopped the Suspect, Who Once Worked at a Convention Center, Reports Say
Toney has no prior arrests, according to the Advocate, which says he previously worked at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The tragedy was described by authorities as a “complex incident that spanned almost three blocks.” Three of the five wounded people taken to the hospital were in critical condition, police said. Police said that reports the driver appeared intoxicated or might have been speeding were under investigation.
Police weren’t sure if all of those wounded were on bicycles at the time, but most of the victims were traveling that way. “Citizens stopped this individual,” police said of the suspect. They thought the suspect had been involved in a one-car accident at first, authorities said of the citizens who intervened. However, authorities quickly determined the suspect was allegedly the person responsible for the bicyclists being struck, police said.
News of the incident broke in the evening hours of March 2, 2019. “The #NOPD is investigating a traffic fatality in the 3200 block of Esplanade Avenue. Initial reports show two victims were struck by a vehicle at the location. The victims were pronounced dead on scene by EMS. #NOPDalert,” the police initially wrote on Twitter.
3. Bicycles Lay at the Scene & Toney Is Accused of Saying He Has a Drinking Problem
Bicycles were seen lying at the scene. Toney is accused of saying at the scene: “I have a drinking problem. I should have gotten help.”
One witness told NOLA.com that the suspect’s black Chevrolet Camaro “blew by us.” Added the witness to the newspaper: “I heard his engine running. He was flying.”
“UPDATE: NOPD officers have arrested a suspect in connection with this incident. #NOPDalert.” NOLA Ready wrote, “@NewOrleansEMS is working multiple injuries after vehicle hit pedestrians. Please continue to avoid the area and clear the way for emergency vehicles.”
The victims ranged in age from 28 to 62.
4. A Witness Described the Driver’s Alleged State
The Advocate reported that one witness allegedly saw the driver jump shirtless out of the car, run to a corner, and then lay “down on the sidewalk, and lost consciousness.” A cyclist chased the driver, according to Advocate, which added that the driver allegedly claimed his father was a police officer.
The witness told the Advocate that the driver allegedly appeared extremely intoxicated. Cyclist Frank Rourk used the phrase “blind drunk” in an interview with the news site, which added that another witness said the two people down were lying near bicycles.
“⚠️Public safety incident on Esplanade Ave. in the Bayou St. John neighborhood. @nopdnews is on scene. Please avoid the area,” NOLA Ready wrote on Twitter.
5. Toney Was Out Celebrating His Birthday
Tashonty Toney was out celebrating his birthday before the incident, Advocate reported. The site quoted family members as saying that Toney liked hanging out with his sister’s kids, with his grandmother telling the publication, “Tashonty is a very good person, he’s a considerate person. He’s a humble person and he’s a hard worker.”
According to NOLA.com, the incident came as the “Krewe of Endymion was rolling through Mid-City in its annual Mardi Gras parade.” However, police said they don’t think the tragedy had anything to do with the parade.
“Feel so sad about the people killed and injured on Esplanade, and for their families,” one woman wrote on Twitter as news broke.