The first indication that New Orleans Police Officer Marcus McNeil had been shot dead Friday came in a chilling radio transmission: "I think he hit 'Dud.' I heard shots fired. Somebody went down, and (the shooter) went running."
Those words came from a breathless Officer Stephen Stephano and were captured on a NOPD radio communications recording the morning McNeil, 29, was killed in the line of duty. Stephano would ultimately shoot the suspected killer, leading to his capture.
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The radio scanner recording documents just how quickly what initially appeared to be an unremarkable stop of a suspicious person turned lethal.
Just 19 minutes elapsed from the time emergency dispatchers were notified of what initially appeared to be an ordinary stop in New Orleans East until McNeil arrived at the Mid-City hospital where he was declared dead. McNeil was given the nickname "Dud" because friends thought his bald head resembled the candy Milk Duds.
The communications also give a more complete picture of the circumstances that left 30-year-old Darren Bridges facing an allegation of capital murder.
At about 12:11 a.m., a policeman's voice can be heard notifying an operator that he and other officers were at the corner of Tara Lane and Lake Forest Boulevard. He said they were going to initiate a type of check that often involves stopping someone police regard as suspicious.
The officer didn't elaborate, but an arrest warrant for Bridges later alleged he was carrying a backpack full of illegal drugs in a vicinity that is notorious for drug dealing.
Just three minutes later, an officer's voice is heard frantically screaming for dispatchers to send paramedics to Tara Lane.
The recording doesn't capture exactly what occurred in those three minutes. But, according to multiple sources, it appears investigators are looking into whether Bridges ran when he saw uniformed police approach him, causing the officers to split up in an effort to catch him.
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Bridges' arrest warrant says he encountered McNeil alone in the 6800 block of Cindy Place, which is one block from Tara Lane. That, combined with the fact that an officer first requested that paramedics be sent to Tara, suggests McNeil's colleagues may have been close enough to hear him get into trouble but not necessarily close enough to see him.
The warrant says unspecified video evidence shows McNeil and Bridges fighting, with McNeil using his stun gun on Bridges in an attempt to subdue him. But the Taser didn't stop Bridges, and he allegedly fired his own gun at McNeil, striking the officer several times.
Seconds after McNeil's colleagues summoned help, Stephano's voice can be heard on the radio saying he fired at Bridges.
"I shot him once," he said. "He went down, but we can't find him."
Stephano's attorney, Donovan Livaccari of the Fraternal Order of Police, confirmed that he was the officer who shot Bridges.
Officers then worked to cordon off the surrounding area to prevent Bridges from fleeing.
Stephano continued, "Somebody has got to get onto Cindy Place and take Dud up. I think he hit Dud. I heard shots fired. Somebody went down, and the dude went running."
Police began working their way toward Cindy Place, and after several seconds, Stephano added, "At the spot where I shot him, there's a key in the door by where he went in."
A firm knocking could be heard over the transmission as another officer appeared to shout, "Open up!"
When there was no answer, Stephano said, "We're going to need SOD (the Special Operations Division)."
Bridges' warrant says he was bleeding profusely inside his apartment at that time. He eventually surrendered and was taken to University Medical Center, where he was remotely booked on counts of drug violations, illegal weapon possession and first-degree murder, which is punishable by either life imprisonment or execution.
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Prior to that, though, paramedics joined officers rallying around McNeil. One said on the radio that police were unsure if the killer had been caught.
An officer also pleaded with anyone who wasn't wearing body armor to seek cover. At that point, just 11 minutes had passed.
Less than 30 seconds later, paramedics had McNeil in an ambulance headed to University Medical Center. They arrived about 12:30 a.m. The medical staff there would soon pronounce him dead.
City leaders have lauded how hard Stephano, paramedics and other emergency responders battled to try to save McNeil under perilous circumstances.
On Monday, the slain officer's aunt, Avis Brock, said McNeil's widow, mother and grandmother have not been fully able to grasp that he is gone — much less his two daughters, ages 2 and 5.
Brock said she wasn't sure yet whether she wants authorities to pursue the death penalty for Bridges, who is described in court documents as a career criminal. But she said she is sure of one thing: "His life is over already," she said. "He took away a daddy, a son, a grandson, a husband, a friend. ... He just took. He can't give back. His day of reckoning is coming."
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