Mandina’s reopened Monday, May 1, three days after a fatal shooting at the restaurant killed a server and wounded a customer dining inside. Hilbert Walker III, age 23, was killed Friday, April 28 in what the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate describes as a “fusillade” of bullets outside of the Canal Street restaurant.
Mandina’s, which was closed Saturday and Sunday, released a statement Monday saying in part: “The loss of our friend and fellow worker Hilbert Walker III has been devastating to our entire restaurant family. He will be greatly missed. We are praying for the continual recovery of the victim hit by the stray bullet.” Fourth-generation owner Cindy Mandina also thanked the restaurant’s security officer, “who was a hero Friday night.”
“Please allow us to regroup as we set our course going forward and do what we do, serve food,” Mandina’s statement concluded. The Louisiana Restaurant Association has offered to connect the restaurant’s employees with trauma counseling services, Mandina said.
According to the Advocate, two people pulled up to the Mid City restaurant in a car and ambushed the employee while he was serving diners at sidewalk tables around 8:20 p.m. Friday night. A 54-year-old woman from Chicago who was dining inside was also struck and taken to the hospital; a fellow diner in her party tweeted: “The woman in our party who was hurt was helped by a doctor dining. She is okay, we are hearing.”
The Advocate reports that the security guard returned fire at the shooters, but “it is not known whether the guard wounded them.” Mandina told the newspaper she is considering hiring two guards during dinner service moving forward. Police have not named a motive for the shooting, and no arrests had been made as of Monday, according to WWL.
The victim, known as Hil, grew up in the Carrollton and Old Jefferson neighborhoods and went to Sophie B. Wright High School where he played football and trumpet and served as the school band’s drum major. He had worked at the 91-year-old Mandina’s for years, first as a busboy and then as a host and waiter. Eater has reached out to the restaurant about funeral services for Walker and fundraising for Walker’s family and will update this story if we hear back.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell released a statement Saturday morning that did not directly reference the shooting but said: “A celebratory day was later marred by another senseless act of violence.” Friday was the first day of Jazz Fest, one of the busiest times a year for restaurants in New Orleans; Mandina’s is about two miles away from the Fair Grounds, the festival site.