A 17-year-old who had been arrested twice in the past year on robbery charges was shot and killed early Thursday by an off-duty Southern University at New Orleans police officer after the youth allegedly robbed a woman at gunpoint in Gentilly, authorities said.
The victim was identified as Jose Valerio, who was out on bond following an arrest last July on two counts of armed robbery and an arrest earlier this year for simple robbery, according to Orleans Parish Criminal District Court documents.
Authorities did not immediately identify the officer who killed him but said the incident is considered a justifiable homicide.
Thursday’s shooting happened about 2 a.m. in the 2600 block of Dreux Avenue, just off Franklin Avenue, said Officer Garry Flot, a Police Department spokesman.
Three women — ages 23, 24 and 27 — had a flat tire and called a friend to help them change it, Flot said.
A short time later, the unidentified 25-year-old SUNO officer arrived and began to change the tire.
Another car drove up and Valerio got out of the vehicle — possibly a Chrysler — and pointed a gun at one of the women, demanding her purse, Flot said.
She handed over her bag, at which point the man who was changing the tire identified himself as a law enforcement officer and pulled out his gun, Flot said.
The men exchanged gunfire and Valerio was struck multiple times, Flot said.
The driver of the Chrysler sped away from the scene.
Valerio died on arrival at Interim LSU Hospital, said John Gagliano, the Orleans Parish coroner’s chief investigator.
Police recovered the gun Valerio used and are researching its history, Flot said.
SUNO Police Chief Ira Thomas declined to identify the officer or say whether he might face any disciplinary action as New Orleans police continue their probe of the matter, instead directing those questions to a university spokeswoman.
“SUNO is fully cooperating with NOPD in this matter, which is still under investigation,” SUNO spokeswoman Tammy Barney said in a prepared statement.
The women and the off-duty officer were questioned and released.
The Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office will review the case.
Homicide Detective Tindell Murdock is in charge of the investigation.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro described the shooting as a “horrific tragedy” that “could have easily been prevented but for the systemic failure of one component of our criminal justice system.”
Details about Valerio’s previous arrests were not immediately available Thursday, but Cannizzaro’s office had sought to have his $50,000 bond for the two counts of armed robbery revoked after his arrest in February on the simple robbery charge.
According to court documents, Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White declined to revoke the bond on the armed robberies and instead raised the bail on the simple robbery charge from $15,000 to $40,000.
Valerio was able to post that bond and was released.
“I set an appropriate bond according to the facts that I was presented and based on his youth, his nonexistent conviction history, his high school attendance, regular drug screening and family,” said White, who has frequently sparred with Cannizzaro’s office.
However, court records show that Valerio was placed on house arrest in December after failing a drug test. He was found to be in possession of drugs in January, and there were questionable results for two drug tests this month, with the results indicating he tried to “dilute” his urine.
In a prepared statement, Cannizzaro described the $50,000 bond as “woefully inadequate,” adding that Valerio “continually violated the conditions of that bond by testing positive for narcotics for which there was no consequence” and was allowed to post bond again.
“When the report on the Valerio homicide is delivered to my office, we will review the case pursuant to our standard procedures,” Cannizzaro said. “However, the real tragedy is that he should have never been out on the streets to be shot.”
White said she held a hearing Thursday about a possible violation of a sequestration order she had issued in the case, barring witnesses from talking with one another. The alleged violation came when police officers purportedly met together with prosecutors recently to discuss their testimony in the armed robbery case against Valerio.
Staff writer John Simerman contributed to this report. Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.