New Orleans Police Department brass failed to take action against three officers who gave false statements about a 2012 police raid in Gentilly that ended with the death of an unarmed man, according to a report released Tuesday by Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson.
The 29-page report raises new questions about the integrity of the NOPD’s investigation of the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Wendell Allen, a former basketball star at Frederick Douglass High School whose death tore at an already strained relationship between the black community and police in New Orleans.
The officer who shot and killed Allen, Joshua Colclough, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2013 and is serving a four-year sentence in state prison. Colclough is white; Allen was black.
Hutson’s report was made public a day before Colclough, 31, is scheduled to appear in Criminal District Court court and ask Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson to reduce his sentence.
“He apologized to the family and the community. The family accepted his apology. There’s really nothing further to be served by” keeping him in prison, Colclough’s lawyer, Claude Schlesinger, said. “He’s not a threat, not like keeping violent offenders off the street. He’s turned his life around, admitted to what he did.”
Hutson’s report accuses the department of whitewashing aspects of the raid and violating the terms of a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department by failing to determine whether the shooting ran afoul of department policy — claims Superintendent Michael Harrison denied.
“There was a lot that did not go right in this investigation,” Hutson said at an afternoon news conference.
At the time of the raid, Allen was unarmed, shirtless and wearing pajama bottoms. Colclough shot him in the chest at the top of a flight of stairs. Investigators later found 138.4 grams of marijuana in Allen’s brother’s room, along with a scale.
Editor's note: Video below contains explicit language.
Hutson called for a new Public Integrity Bureau inquiry to find out whether certain officers who participated in the raid should be disciplined for providing false statements. She also said the department should revise its search warrant policies and procedures, saying the search of the Allen home placed small children in danger and wasn’t necessary.
“Aggressive and violent raids for non-violent marijuana offenses undermine community trust in the police and seriously damage the NOPD’s credibility,” she said.
The report reserves its most stinging criticism for Sgt. Bruce Glaudi, a veteran officer who led the investigation into Allen’s death. It accuses Glaudi of initially ignoring video evidence — one officer at the scene, Eugene Cummings, used a personal body camera to record the raid — and then failing to address several inconsistencies between the footage and the statements of officers who participated in the March 7, 2012, search of Allen’s mother’s home on Prentiss Street.
Three officers — Cummings, Roy Caballero and Nigel Daggs — falsely claimed they had announced their presence before battering in the door of the Allen home, Hutson’s report says. The video, which begins seven seconds before the door was breached, contradicts these claims, according to the report.
Caballero also falsely claimed to have warned Allen to get down before Colclough opened fire, the report says. “NOPD did not mention this clear inconsistency between recorded police testimony and video evidence in any of their reports,” the report says.
Hutson, in her remarks to reporters, said her investigation found the police had a “preoccupation with trying to find a weapon, a weapon that could perhaps be linked to Wendell Allen.”
Editor's note: Below is audio of radio traffic. Skip to the 5-minute mark to hear sound from the Allen incident.
“That wasn’t necessary because the officers that were there and involved in the raid knew that he was not carrying a weapon,” she added. “He wasn’t even wearing a shirt that night.”
Lon Burns, an attorney representing Allen’s family, said the NOPD tried “to make this look like a justified shooting, which it was not.” He called for the U.S. Attorney’s Office to open a criminal inquiry into what he called an attempted cover-up by police.
“Charge these officers in this case,” he said. “Convene a grand jury.”
Harrison, the police chief, said the NOPD has implemented “significant reforms since the tragic death of Mr. Allen over three years ago,” including new search warrant policies and oversight of officer-involved shootings by the Public Integrity Bureau’s Force Investigation Team.
Hutson’s report is based upon an “incomplete review of data,” the chief said, as well as “the incorrect assumption” that the officers did not give a warning before barging into the home.
Hutson’s office “relies on a video as the basis for this assumption, but the video footage does not contain any visual images of the door being breached,” Harrison said. “Accordingly, it is pure speculation to say that the verbal warning by NOPD happened after the door was breached. Multiple officers ... provided statements that verbal warnings were given before the door was breached.”
Harrison said Glaudi doubted that any video of the raid existed because the department had not started issuing body-worn cameras at the time.
Hutson’s report, on the other hand, claims Glaudi simply ignored Cummings’ statement that he had video of the incident.
In fact, the department tried to discipline Cummings for his use of a body camera in the first place, Hutson’s report says, adding that Cummings should have been “commended for having done his duty to the department and not burying evidence.”
An NOPD spokesman said the department ultimately did not discipline Cummings for wearing the camera.
Allen’s family members have filed a lawsuit against the city. Their attorney, Madro Bandaries, said they’re in settlement talks with the city.
Burns accused District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office of ignoring possible charges against Glaudi and others. “The public is going to have confidence in the DA’s Office and the Police Department only when we see those crooked cops brought to justice,” he said.
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for Cannizzaro, said prosecutors “viewed all the evidence and did consider possible charges against other suspects (besides Colclough) prior to presenting the case to the grand jury.” He declined to identify those suspects, citing “the secrecy provisions of the grand jury.”
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