Officials and worried relatives huddled at University Medical Center on Tuesday as they awaited news on the condition of a Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy who was shot while serving a state narcotics warrant on a house in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward.
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand said Deputy Stephen Arnold, 35, a 12-year veteran, underwent two hours of surgery Tuesday morning and was in critical but stable condition after being shot five times about 6 a.m. in the 5300 block of Douglas Street.
Authorities identified the man who shot him as 26-year-old Jarvis Hardy, who was the target of the warrant.
Arnold was among a 12-member team led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that raided the low-slung, red-brick house facing the Mississippi River levee where Hardy lives, according to DEA Special Agent Debbie Webber.
The DEA has not said why it was focusing on Hardy, who, according to online court records, has no felony convictions in Orleans or Jefferson parishes.
The New Orleans Police Department said it planned to book Hardy on attempted murder and drug counts, but it was unclear whether he would be taken into federal or state custody.
Normand said Arnold was shot in the neck, torso and arm.
“He is in real serious condition — critical condition,” Normand said Tuesday morning. “There appeared a time where he stopped breathing. … We’re just praying, praying, praying that neurologically — that there’s not any impairment.”
Normand said Arnold had been deputized as a federal agent and had worked on the drug task force for several years. He described the deputy as well-liked by his peers and a “really good officer ... just one of the guys that you wish you had a hell of a lot more of.”
Raymond “Keith” Brown, the DEA’s local special agent in charge, echoed that sentiment. He said the mood inside the agency’s local office is somber.
“This is the day you never want to happen,” Brown said. “He’s an amazing man and an amazing police officer.”
Arnold’s girlfriend hurried to the hospital, Normand said, and throughout the day local dignitaries paid their respects. NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite and Mayor Mitch Landrieu all visited the hospital to check on his condition.
Other agents on the DEA task force were drawn from Gretna and Slidell police; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the U.S. Marshals Service; and sheriffs’ offices in St. Bernard, Tangipahoa and St. Tammany parishes.
According to the DEA, the team raiding Hardy’s house was one of eight serving warrants throughout Orleans Parish on Tuesday morning as part of a larger operation focused on violent drug traffickers. Brown said the raid on Hardy’s house was connected to other operations being conducted in New Orleans East.
Normand said the outcome of the raid underscored the dangers of the drug trade and the perils that police officers face in trying to stem it.
“I don’t get where we’re talking about legalizing this, legalizing that, trying to do this, do that, while these men and women are out there risking their lives day in and day out. For what?” Normand asked.
Col. John Fortunato, a spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, said a blood drive on Arnold’s behalf garnered an “overwhelming response.” He said the Blood Center would continue the drive Wednesday at the JPSO headquarters and Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Several Lower 9th Ward residents expressed concern both for Arnold and the man who police said shot him. They pointed to what they claimed was Hardy’s clean criminal record and expressed doubt that the DEA team had announced itself at the door.
Brown, of the DEA, declined to comment on Tuesday’s warrant service, citing the ongoing investigation. But he said the agency generally makes a point of knocking, then announcing itself loudly and often.
“From the moment you approach the door, then start knocking and try to force your way in, everyone there is yelling at the top of their lungs, ‘Police! Police! Police! Search warrant!’ ” Brown said. “We’re not trying to sneak up on you.”
Hardy lived in the Douglas Street house with his uncle and mother, according to Karen Harris, 52, who said she has known him for nearly 20 years. She said Hardy had grown increasingly withdrawn since a September incident when armed robbers shot at him near the house.
Hardy detailed a wild chain of events to officers who responded to a 911 call reporting an aggravated burglary about 8:30 p.m. Sept. 22, according to an initial police report at the time. He claimed that as he was leaving his house, he was approached by two men, one of them wielding an assault rifle.
Hardy said the men forced him back into the house, stripped him and tied his hands together with a belt. Then they stole the key to his BMW and went through his wallet, he said.
He claimed that as the men fled his house, he followed them, and the man with the assault rifle fired at him, hitting his car’s passenger door. Hardy said he then shot his own gun once, “in self-defense,” and went back into his house to call police.
Police collected five spent shell casings from the scene that may have been from an assault rifle, according to the initial report.
Harris, the woman who has known Hardy for several years, said that incident loomed large in her mind as she sought to understand what happened Tuesday. “I guess he figured he was getting robbed again,” she said.
Harris said Hardy is the youngest of three brothers and a quiet neighborhood presence.
Others offered a more jaundiced view. One man, who declined to give his name, said he passed Hardy’s house all the time and witnessed a steady stream of people entering and exiting. He suspected drugs were being dealt there, he said.
“If you could bet on a house getting served a warrant, it would be that house,” the man said.
Advocate staff writer Jim Mustian and WWL-TV reporters Katie Moore, Mike Perlstein and Paul Murphy contributed to this story.