GRETNA, LA (WGNO) — The Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office says a jury found 28-year-old Gary Francois guilty of murdering a man on Christmas Eve 2014 at the Oakwood Center shopping mall.
Prosecutors say they used testimony from a forensic psychiatrist and a forensic psychologist to counter Francois’ defense claim that he suffers from schizophrenia and a paranoid episode triggered the attack. The experts said that while Francois has a psychiatric disorder, his actions around the time of the shooting showed that he was able to distinguish right from wrong.
The shooting happened at about 4:30 in the afternoon at a Foot Locker store. JPSO Sheriff Newell Normand said that the victim, James Vaughn, had just completed a transaction at the register of a store when Francois walked to within a few feet of him and fired three shots.
“I just heard gunshots. And I had my niece and my daughter, and we were running for our lives,” one witness told WGNO News.
After shoppers’ frantic rush for safety, shoes and other personal items were scattered around the interior of the mall. Full meals were left on tables in the eating area.
“Everyone was just panicking and didn’t know where to go,” another witness said.
The shooting happened about 90 minutes before the mall was set to close for the Christmas holiday. Francois was apprehended after a brief foot chase.
Francois is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18 and faces mandatory life in prison.