A veteran New Orleans police officer with a long history of problems in the department was placed on emergency suspension Tuesday after he was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old female relative.
Officer Willie Gant Sr., 57, was booked on two counts each of indecent behavior with a juvenile and sexual battery, according to police and court records.
He is the second NOPD officer to be suspended this week.
Police allege that Gant put his hands under the child’s clothing and inappropriately touched her Saturday while she was asleep at his home in the 1500 block of Marigny Street, according to court documents.
According to an application for an arrest warrant, other children were present at Gant’s home, and the victim asked them not to leave her alone in an effort to prevent additional abuse.
The 12-year-old, who was interviewed at Children’s Hospital, claimed that Gant sexually assaulted her in a similar fashion when she was visiting him three weeks earlier, according to court documents.
Gant’s attorney, Patrick Giraud, said his client denies the allegations. Asked why Gant was being accused of the actions, he said he had “not a clue.”
Giraud said the Gant home is a small place that is occupied by Gant, his wife, four children and his invalid mother, making it difficult to do anything without someone else knowing about it. “I just find it hard to believe you could get away with anything” in that house, Giraud said.
Gant, a 26-year NOPD veteran who most recently was assigned to the 8th District mounted unit, will remain suspended without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation. He was free Wednesday on a $50,000 bond, according to court records.
This is not the first time the department has reviewed his actions. His Civil Service file has nearly 100 pages of documents related to more than two decades of issues.
Gant has in the past been found to cut corners, ignore department policies and abandon his post. He has received letters of reprimand and suspensions ranging from one day to one month, and has twice had his commission revoked.
He was issued a 10-day suspension in January 1998 after it was found that on April 27, 1997, while assigned to the 2nd District, he did not answer his radio.
The battery was dead, he told his supervisors, but they noted he did not go to the station to get a new one and did not use his car’s radio. Instead, he received calls for service over the telephone and then did not properly report back to dispatch. On that day he went to the wrong address for one call and neglected to check two addresses for possible burglaries.
He served a 30-day suspension in August 1999 after an incident on Feb. 1, 1999, when he failed to properly check and secure his car at the end of his shift. Officers on the next shift found a substance believed to be cocaine in a bag on the back floorboard after Gant had arrested a man on suspicion of simple battery. Failure to properly check the vehicle led to the owner of the substance not being charged with that violation, then-Police Superintendent Richard Pennington wrote.
He had a six-day suspension in December 2000 after an investigation into an incident on Jan. 20, 2000, at 9013 Pear St. Gant, who was in his uniform, tried to stop a fight between his son and a 15-year-old boy. Gant failed to notify his supervisor about the incident, during which he tore the shirt off the 15-year-old. He was issued a summons, but the charges were dropped on April 11, 2000. His actions, Pennington wrote, brought discredit to the NOPD.
Most recently his commission was revoked on Nov. 23, 2009, after he was found to be in contempt of court. He was reinstated two days later. That action was related to a failure to appear in Civil District Court on Nov. 3, 2009, which led to his arrest. He was released from jail after paying a portion of child support he had not paid.
Ultimately he was suspended for 16 days in November 2010 in relation to that arrest.
He also has been disciplined for several traffic accidents and violations. In one case, he allegedly refused to take a drug test after an accident.
On Monday police announced that SWAT officer Stephanie Caldwell is under investigation for allegedly trying to run down her husband with her car during an argument early Sunday.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.