Seeking to move past a police shooting that raised racial tensions in New Orleans more than three years ago, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration has agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed by the mother of Wendell Allen, an unarmed man killed during a police raid in Gentilly.
Hayne Rainey, a Landrieu spokesman, said the money called for in the structured settlement agreement will be paid to Natasha Allen by 2017.
Rainey said the city remains committed to working with the U.S. Justice Department, which is overseeing Police Department reforms in New Orleans, and the city’s independent police monitor “to ensure that NOPD is doing everything possible to prevent these types of incidents from happening again.”
The settlement closes a bruising chapter for the Police Department, whose investigation of the fatal shooting was blasted over the summer by Susan Hutson, the independent police monitor.
Joshua Colclough, the officer who fatally shot Allen, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2013 and was sentenced to four years in prison. Colclough is white, and Allen was black.
The shooting happened March 7, 2012, while New Orleans police and Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies were searching the home of Allen’s mother on Prentiss Street. Authorities said they had received a tip from a confidential informant that someone was dealing drugs out of the home, and they went in with weapons drawn.
As Colclough was about to head up the stairs inside the home, an unarmed Allen — shirtless and wearing pajama bottoms — appeared at the top of the stairwell. Colclough opened fire, shooting Allen once through the chest. He later said he believed the young man had made motions with his hand that suggested he had a weapon.
Like a number of other recent police shootings around the country, the case was influenced by compelling footage captured on one officer’s body camera. The officer wore the personal camera long before the NOPD began requiring officers to wear the devices.
The civil lawsuit against the city was significantly gutted last month when U.S. District Judge Jay Zainey granted the city’s motion for summary judgment, ruling the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate “the necessary causal link between systemic problems in NOPD and the mistaken use of deadly force against Wendell Allen.”
The lawsuit had largely relied on a federal investigation that uncovered a host of unconstitutional practices within the Police Department and that resulted in a federal consent decree with the Justice Department.
Rainey, the city spokesman, noted that even after Zainey’s ruling, the city still faced “state law vicarious liability for Colclough’s actions.”
Lionel “Lon” Burns, the attorney representing the Allen family, declined to comment on the settlement.
Claude Schlesinger, an attorney for Colclough, said his client’s sentence appears to be winding down. His earliest possible release date is May 13, 2016, according to the state Department of Corrections.
“He’s a model prisoner,” Schlesinger said. “He’s taking classes to enhance his position to obtain an earlier release than he might otherwise obtain.”
Schlesinger said his client is eligible for considerable “good time” early release based on credits he has earned inside prison. He said Colclough recently got engaged to his girlfriend and has plans to get married shortly after his release.
WWL-TV reporter Mike Perlstein contributed to this report.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.