Ex-New Orleans police officer pleads guilty to tossing evidence in cop-killing case, faces up to 40 years in prison _lowres

Former New Orleans Police Officer Wardell Johnson

The New Orleans Police Department has arrested one of its own officers and accused him of obstructing the investigation into the June 20 death of Officer Daryle Holloway.

Officer Wardell Johnson was arrested on one count of obstruction of justice, one count of malfeasance in office and one count of theft on Monday shortly after an interview with the department’s Public Integrity Bureau, the NOPD said.

Johnson was the officer who initially arrested Travis Boys, who is accused of fatally shooting Holloway a few hours later. Police believe Johnson intended to cover up sloppy police work, not to aid Boys in killing Holloway.

Police said detectives witnessed Johnson tossing a box of .40-caliber bullets recovered from the scene of Boys’ domestic violence arrest onto Morrison Road near Downman Road in New Orleans East immediately after the Monday interview.

The NOPD said body-worn camera footage also showed that Johnson deliberately attempted to leave a .40-caliber bullet casing on the ground after Boys allegedly shot at his wife in the early morning hours of June 20. Officers eventually recovered that casing from the scene, according to a police report, but the .40-caliber weapon used to fire it was not taken by the arresting officers.

Johnson, a 12-year veteran of the force, was assigned to the same 5th District as Holloway. Police said that in addition to being arrested, he had been placed on emergency suspension.

Police said Johnson admitted to throwing the bullets out of his vehicle when confronted by the Public Integrity Bureau in a follow-up interview.

Johnson’s partner, Officer Ryan Morgan, has not been accused of any wrongdoing at present.

“I am extremely disgusted and outraged by the lack of professionalism and integrity shown by this officer based on the evidence we discovered today,” NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said in a statement. “This is an example of sloppy police work with a clear intent to cover it up, and it will not stand.”

Harrison said the PIB Force Investigation Team “has spent countless hours collecting and reviewing evidence in this investigation, and we will continue to aggressively follow every lead to ensure justice for all victims involved.”

Police said they were continuing to investigate how Boys obtained the gun with which he allegedly shot Holloway.

NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble cautioned against directly connecting the death of Officer Holloway to Johnson’s arrest. “There’s no evidence that shows that he knew Boys or that he attempted to help Boys cover anything up,” Gamble said.

Johnson’s attorney, Ted Alpaugh, declined to comment.

Fraternal Order of Police Crescent City Lodge spokesman Donovan Livaccari said in an email that it was “disappointing that our attention has to be diverted from the loss of Officer Holloway.”

Livaccari emphasized that Johnson’s partner, Morgan, has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

“While this situation is unacceptable, it does not change the fact that Police Officer Daryle Holloway was brutally murdered by Travis Boys while he was performing his duties,” Livaccari said.

David Belfield, Holloway’s uncle and a criminal defense attorney, said Johnson’s arrest confirmed his suspicions when he read the initial police report Johnson wrote about Boys’s arrest. Belfield had raised questions about why police had seized only a .38-caliber revolver from the Boys household after recovering a spent .40-caliber shell casing at the scene.

In response to the arrest of Johnson, Belfield said, “I read that report and I knew something smelled like a rat.”

He added, “We’re right back to square one with the questions. Why? Why? Why? I can’t answer.”

Boys was captured after a 24-hour manhunt and has been indicted on a charge of first-degree murder of a peace officer. He pleaded not guilty on Monday and faces a possible death penalty.