UPDATED AT 7:45 P.M. TO ADD: The NOPD has now issued a press release identifying the officer involved in the shooting as Officer Josh Colclough. The full NOPD press release is now under the jump.
New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Ronal Serpas at a press conference today said 20-year-old Wendell Allen, shot to death by police during a drug raid yesterday, was unarmed.
"We still have many questions to answer," Serpas said.
For example: "If he didn't have a gun, what was the purpose of shooting him?" said Chrystal Butler, who identified herself as Allen's aunt. Butler, along with several other people who identified themselves as Allen's relatives, were standing outside NOPD headquarters holding signs reading "The police killed our loved one."
Citing an ongoing investigation, Serpas would not give the identity of the NOPD officer who fired the one fatal shot nor would he say what, if anything, prompted that officer's fire. (Serpas said the officer's identity will be revealed later today.)
According to Serpas' account, the raid on the Gentilly home came after Jefferson Parish Sheriff's deputies pulled over Troy Deemer, 19, and found one pound of marijuana in his car. Deemer told police that he had been selling the marijuana from 2651 Prentiss St. in New Orleans. The house was already under surveillance by undercover narcotics officers from the 3rd District.
Police obtained a search warrant and entered the house, then, Serpas speaking in the passive voice as he has been for the past two days, said, "a single gunshot was heard," and Allen was found dead. Serpas says police found 138 grams of marijuana — "about the size of a novelty football" — digital scales and "packing materials." Following information retrieved from the home's occupants, Serpas said, police later found a gun.
But Butler, and several others standing outside the building including Lavondra Bruno, who also said she was Allen's aunt, denied that police found either drugs or a weapon inside the home.
(After the jump: Video of Serpas giving the NOPD account of the events that led up to the shooting, and the NOPD press release issued several hours after Serpas' press conference..)
The timeline, according to NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas:
"Several days ago" (Serpas said): NOPD and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office begin an investigation into illegal drug sales at 2651 Prentiss after receiving a tip that the home was being used for marijuana sales. Undercover police begin surveillance of home, witnessing what appeared to be a number of hand to hand drug sales.
Wednesday, March 7, afternoon: Police on the scene observe one Troy Deemer, 19, get into a white pickup truck with a package police believe contains drugs. Officers follow the car into Jefferson Parish.
Wednesday, March 7, afternoon: Jefferson Parish deputies pull Deemer over for changing lanes without signaling. Deputies smell marijuana. A state police K-9 unit indicates there are drugs in the car. Deemer submits to a search. JPSO deputies find a pound of marijuana. Deemer tells them he's been selling drugs out of the home on Prentiss.
Wednesday, March 7, evening: NOPD 3rd District narcotics officers obtain a search warrant for the home, then execute it with four JPSO deputies. The officers announce their presence outside and receive no answer. They break the door down and continue to announce their presence while inside the home. The JPSO deputies covered the back of the building. A team of NOPD officers covers the front. Five NOPD officers and a sergeant enter the home.
"While some officers moved upstairs, a single gunshot was heard."
New Orleans Police Department- Public Information Office
Information Regarding Police-Involved Shooting in Gentilly
(March 8, 2012)- Today Superintendent Ronal Serpas released the latest information in the on-going investigation into a police-involved shooting last night in Gentilly.
After securing a search warrant from a magistrate judge, NOPDs 3rd district narcotics officers and Jefferson Parish Sheriffs deputies approached a house in the 2600-block of Prentiss Street around 5 last night. They announced their presence, that they had a warrant, and then entered through the front door.
At one point, Officer Josh Colclough fired his gun once, fatally wounding 20-year-old Wendell Allen, who was one of 3 adults in the house.
Public Integrity Bureau (PIB) detectives were on the scene of the shooting immediately, as well as detectives from the Homicide Division. Both groups are working together to conduct a thorough investigation. The Independent Police Monitor, Susan Hutson, was also on the scene last night within minutes, and will audit how the probe is handled in its entirety. Additionally, the 2 FBI agents who work alongside PIB investigators will have full access to every element of the investigation as it progresses.
The impartiality of the Independent Police Monitor, and our agreed partnership to make certain we have unprecedented collaboration, ensures that we will find all the facts, no matter what they are, said Superintendent Serpas.
NOPD and JPSO first launched an investigation into illegal drug sales at the house several days ago, after learning of possible criminal activity there. To confirm this, undercover officers conducted surveillance activities and witnessed what was believed to be several hand-to-hand drug sales at the home.
Yesterday afternoon, after observing additional drug sales, officers witnessed 19 year- old Troy Deemer getting into a white pick-up truck carrying a white package believed to contain drugs.
Officers immediately followed the truck into Jefferson, where JPSO deputies observed a traffic violation and signaled for the trucks driver to pull over. During the stop, they smelled the odor of marijuana.
A State Police narcotics canine confirmed the presence of drugs, and subsequently, about one pound of marijuana was found inside the white package. Deemer was arrested for Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana.
NOPD officers then obtained the search warrant from the judge to search the house on Prentiss for more drugs.
During the search, officers recovered digital scales, packaging materials, and 138 grams of marijuana. Through further investigation, detectives learned from an occupant of the house that a firearm had been hidden in the house.
A Bersa .380 cal semi-automatic hand gun was discovered, and is now being analyzed by NOPDs Crime Lab.
Officer Colclough fired his gun once, with the single bullet fatally wounding Wendell Allen. No one else on the scene was injured.
All deaths are tragic and painful, and we are reminded of this truth now, said Superintendent Serpas. Mayor Landrieu and I send condolences to the Allen family who are grieving at this difficult time.
5 children, ranging from age 1 to 14-years-old, who were in the house when the search warrant was served, were taken to the Child Advocacy Center last night. At the center, their immediate needs were tended to, and they were eventually interviewed by skilled Child Advocacy Experts.
The 2 other adults who were in the home when the search started were:
20-year-old Davin Allen, who was arrested and booked with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana. He was also on probation for Simple Robbery and Theft, and was booked on an outstanding Court Capias.
19-year-old Brandon Boles, who was also arrested and booked with Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana.