Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mayor calls for full investigation into fatal police shooting

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Protesters outside City Hall call for Serpas to be fired
  • Protesters outside City Hall call for Serpas to be fired

While offering no new details on the case, Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a brief meeting with the press today called for a "full and open and fair investigation" into the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Wendell Allen by police last night. Allen was shot inside a Gentilly home while police were executing a search warrant.

"The full investigation is ongoing now, and my commitment to the parents and to the people of new orleans: there will be an full and open investigation. It will be transparent," Landrieu said.

Landrieu said he met with members of Allen's family, including his mother, this morning.

"She was upset. She lost her baby boy," he said. "Neither she nor I really knows the facts and circumstances."

As Landrieu spoke, protesters marched outside City Hall, calling for New Orleans Police Department Chief Ronal Serpas' firing following the second fatal officer involved shooting in as many weeks. As Landrieu acknowledged today, last week's was a "very different incident."

Police are momentarily withholding details on the incident, but Serpas has said that only one shot was fired last night.

According to the official account of last week's incident, Sipp, who was a passenger in his brother Earl's car, began shooting at officers, ultimately firing 14 times and leaving Officers Anthony Michael Asevedo and Anthony Mayfield seriously injured. Officers returned fire, according to police statements, killing Justin Sipp and hitting Earl Sipp in the leg.

Serpas is expected to brief the media on the case today at 3:30 p.m. at NOPD Headquarters. Follow @the_gambit on Twitter for updates. Update: Serpas says man was unarmed.

(After the jump: Video of Landrieu's statement on the shooting)

Landrieu said the city is willing to work with the Department of Justice, which has two agents embedded with the Public Integrity Bureau, as well as with the Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. Hutson, via the @nolaipm Twitter feed, has said that she was on the scene with police investigators after both incidents.

In last year's investigation of the NOPD, Justice had the following to say about the department's internal investigations of officer uses of force:

The systemic deficiencies in NOPD’s investigation and review of officer-involved shootings are so egregious that they appear in some respects to be deliberate. NOPD officer- involved shooting investigations consistently fail to gather evidence, establish critical facts, or fairly analyze the evidence that is readily available. As a result, despite clear and systemic problems with how NOPD officers use deadly force, NOPD has not found that an officer- involved shooting violated policy in at least six years, and NOPD officials we spoke with could recall only one out-of-policy finding even before that time.

Hutson has also criticized NOPD procedure following such "critical incidents." From our interview with her:

"The first thing I did when I got here in June 2010 was look at how they handle what we call critical incidents. Those are officer-involved shootings, custody deaths, etc. because, of course, Danziger and [Henry] Glover, etc.," Hutson says. "In 2010, I went to, maybe, 10-15 shootings total. There was no review process after. The department did not have a robust review process."

...

Hutson says officer-involved-shooting investigations have improved somewhat. PIB is more involved in controlling officer-involved-shooting scenes. But some problems persist. Hutson says she's seen cases where involved officers were not properly separated from witnesses after shootings. She even names one case where the involved officer appeared to be overseeing evidence collection.

"That's completely unacceptable," Hutson says.

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