Grand Isle sunbather run over by island’s assistant police chief, authorities say _lowres

Birds are seen on the shoreline in Grand Isle, La.,in this Aug. 9, 2010, file photo. A Grand Isle police officer accidentally drove into a woman as she was sunbathing on the beach Thursday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) ORG XMIT: LAGH101

The Grand Isle police officer who drove into a woman as she was sunbathing on the beach Thursday was the local department’s assistant chief, officials said Friday.

Louisiana State Police Sgt. Nick Manale on Friday identified the Grand Isle officer involved in the incident a day earlier as Norris Esponge Jr. and the injured woman as 23-year-old Lindsey Gordon. Her injuries did not appear to be life-threatening.

Manale on Friday said the investigation into the incident remained ongoing, and there have been no decisions made about whether to cite or arrest Esponge, 52.

Esponge was patrolling the beach near Cranberry Lane in a fully marked Ford F-250 truck about 3 p.m. He passed by the area once without incident, but on the second pass, he ran over Gordon, said Manale, whose agency is leading the investigation because the beach is state property.

A woman accompanying Gordon managed to jump out of the vehicle’s way and avoid harm.

First responders airlifted Gordon to University Medical Center in New Orleans, Manale said. She was said to be in stable condition.

Meanwhile, Grand Isle officials said the assistant police chief was placed on administrative leave and submitted to drug and alcohol tests, as is protocol.

Esponge ran in March’s election to succeed outgoing Police Chief Euris DuBois, but he finished second in a field of four with 16 percent of the 699 votes cast in the race. The winner, Laine Landry Sr., secured 64 percent of the vote.

Those in charge of protecting Grand Isle’s residents and visitors have been in the news during the past month for a number of unflattering reasons.

The Police Department was raided in March by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, which alleged the island town’s cops had done a poor job of storing evidence and may have interfered in undercover narcotics investigations.

Additionally, a Jefferson Parish Inspector General’s Office report recently found that the island’s volunteer fire company used a significant portion of its public funds on things that had no valid purpose and were possibly illegal.