Soon after a Housing Authority of New Orleans police officer was shot dead while patrolling a vacant housing construction site in Central City on May 24, FBI Director James Comey placed a phone call to the tiny department’s chief.
Comey wanted to let HANO Chief Robert Anderson know the federal agency stood behind him during the investigation into the death of Officer James Bennett.
But even with federal assistance, New Orleans Police Department homicide detectives have yet to make an arrest. On Thursday, officials announced that Crimestoppers has raised the reward for tips leading to a suspect’s capture and indictment to $10,000.
“All we need is a little bit,” Anderson said at a Thursday news conference. Investigators could then “turn that little bit into an arrest so the family can have some justice.”
Anderson was flanked by NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison and FBI New Orleans Division Special Agent in Charge Michael Anderson.
The federal official said investigators are “bringing everything that the FBI has to bear” — a sign of the national interest the case has raised.
Police have given few details so far on the course of their investigation. What is known is that Bennett was shot while working an overtime shift in the 2200 block of Erato Street, near the redevelopment site of the Guste housing development.
Officers responded to the scene about 7:10 a.m. to find Bennett dead. His car had apparently come to a rest on the curb after he was shot.
NOPD Homicide Division Cmdr. Nicholas Gernon said detectives had received “promising” tips from the community relating to the case and are investigating them. The State Police Crime Lab is processing evidence collected at the scene.
Gernon said people nearby gave the department surveillance video that had given detectives “some ideas as to what might have happened.”
But officials repeated throughout the conference that they still need help. Gernon said it would be premature to comment on a potential motive in the case or on speculation that Bennett died in an ambush.
“Any of our working theories right now, they’re really just theories,” he said.
As police search for Bennett’s killer, his family has been in mourning. The officer was laid to rest May 29 in a funeral attended by hundreds of police from across the state.
“We’re still hurting,” said Anderson, who has led HANO’s roughly two-dozen officer force since May 2014. “We won’t be the same police department that we were.”
Officials have asked anyone with information on the killing to contact Detective Shawn Jenkins at (504) 658-5300 or Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.