By the time veteran New Orleans police Officer Daryle Holloway was laid to rest in a mournful service on Saturday, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office already had secured a grand jury indictment for first-degree murder against the officer’s suspected killer, Travis Boys.
Cannizzaro’s office held back news of the indictment until Monday morning, when it was announced in court and a prosecutor told Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter that the DA’s Office would seek death for Boys, 33, who has a history of escaping from law enforcement. Hunter ordered Boys held without bail.
A spokesman for Cannizzaro’s office declined to comment on the decision to seek a capital conviction, citing an office policy of not discussing open cases. Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman acknowledged, however, that the office kept a lid on what NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said Monday was the swiftest murder indictment he’s ever seen, coming just five days after the officer’s death.
“We held the indictment so that his family could have their services without this distraction,” Bowman said. “We did it out of respect for Officer Holloway and his family.”
The grand jury members likely viewed video from Holloway’s body-worn camera as part of the evidence of an attack inside the 22-year veteran’s SUV.
Holloway, just starting his day shift on the morning of June 20, had been entrusted with the transfer of Boys to jail, following his arrest on a count of aggravated assault after police said he fired a .38-caliber handgun at his wife.
But somehow — police aren’t yet sure how — Boys was able to secure a different weapon, a .40-caliber handgun, from the back seat. He shot Holloway in the right side of his chest and squeezed through a barrier port and into the front seat, police allege.
Police say a struggle ensued as the wounded and bloodied officer sought to keep Boys from escaping at North Claiborne and Elysian Fields avenues, even as Boys yelled three times, “Let me go before you kill yourself!”
Boys fled east on North Claiborne, according to the arrest warrant. Holloway remained inside the SUV, which careened into a nearby utility pole.
A citywide manhunt ensued for Boys, whose history includes convictions in Jefferson Parish for resisting arrest in 2011, attempted simple escape in 2005 and simple escape and flight from an officer in 2000.
Jefferson Parish criminal records show that in July 1999, Boys, who lived in Algiers, managed to flee law enforcement as a detective leaned into his cruiser to unlock the rear door.
Boys, seeking to avoid being jailed on probation violations, outran the detective. Authorities caught up with him a month later in Gretna, court records show.
Speaking at a news conference Monday, Harrison praised the speed with which the grand jury delivered the murder indictment against Boys.
“I am extremely thrilled about the speedy indictment for Mr. Boys,” Harrison said. “We have a great relationship with the District Attorney’s Office. We work hand in hand together every day. This was an example of what great partnerships will produce.”
Harrison declined to comment on the DA’s decision to seek the death penalty — something the office rarely does — though he noted that Holloway’s mother “has the spirit of forgiveness.”
“My concern is that justice is served,” he added.
Harrison remained mum about how Boys managed to stay free for 24 hours despite a massive search following Holloway’s fatal shooting, before a rookie officer spotted Boys boarding a city bus in the Lower 9th Ward.
But two sources with knowledge of the investigation say the Public Integrity Bureau is looking into whether the son of a New Orleans police officer played a role in harboring or aiding Boys at a home owned by the officer, less than two blocks from where Boys fled the SUV in handcuffs while Holloway was dying inside it.
The son of the officer was said to have been a friend of Boys, one of the sources said.
It is not clear whether the officer had any knowledge that her son was allegedly helping Boys, but she has been questioned, one of the sources said.
Multiple sources have told The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV that investigators have conducted searches in the 2200 block of North Derbigny Street, where the female officer owns a pair of properties.
A neighbor confirmed that investigators returned to the scene after Boys’ capture, spending a considerable amount of time in the backyard of one of the houses.
Other neighbors said police swarmed a backyard on the block and picked up two men from one of the houses for questioning on June 23, three days after Holloway’s killing, but later released them. An employee at nearby Jack’s Meat Market confirmed that a detective had retrieved surveillance footage from the corner store.
According to police sources, the investigators were drawn back to the scene while zeroing in on metal links cut from the suspect’s handcuffs, as well as bolt-cutters or some other tool that they believe was used to cut the links and separate the handcuffs.
Police had made no arrests as of late Monday of anyone who might have helped Boys elude capture, and no officers have been reassigned or suspended at this point in the investigation, according to NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble.
Gamble would not comment on the specifics of the probe, citing the pending criminal investigation.
“We are investigating every lead on what events led to Officer Holloway’s death and Travis Boys’ escape,” Gamble said. “We will follow the investigation wherever it takes us.”
The investigation could shed light on one of the central mysteries of Boys’ escape: how a handcuffed fugitive evaded a massive joint task force of federal, state and local law enforcement for a full 24 hours as a SWAT team went door to door nearby.
When Boys was finally spotted in a convenience store in the Lower 9th Ward on the morning of June 21, he was wearing a jacket he did not have in the police SUV, helping to hide his handcuffs. He also had enough money to buy a po-boy.
Boys could be arraigned on the first-degree murder charge as early as Tuesday morning. Based on the date of Holloway’s slaying, the case was allotted to Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman.
The judge, a former prosecutor, is presiding over two other high-profile cases: the rape case against former Saints safety Darren Sharper and two co-defendants; and the prosecution of two men accused of manslaughter in the July 2013 hit-and-run death of NOPD Officer Rodney Thomas, who was the last NOPD officer to be killed before Holloway.
Boys is represented by the Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office, which declined to comment Monday on the indictment or the decision by Cannizzaro’s office to seek the death penalty.
WWL-TV reporter Mike Perlstein contributed to this story.Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.